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"Desperate times call for desperate measures." *** Nala Kaydence Cabral's life took a drastic turn after her mother's passing. She thought her fate was sealed, but she soon realized that she had the power to shape her own destiny. Despite her promise to her late mother, Nala had to resort to illegal means to survive their dire circumstances. It's a harsh reality, but it's the only way out. Little did Nala know that crossing paths with a stranger would lead her down a dangerous path. Their eyes met, and she felt a strange connection, but she had no idea that her decisions would ultimately lead to her downfall. With just a simple gesture, everything changed between them, and Nala found herself in deeper trouble than before. Life can be unpredictable, but for Nala, it's a matter of survival. Will she be able to navigate the treacherous waters ahead, or will she succumb to the dangers lurking around every corner?
Nala’s Point of View
“Can you really do this?” Lawrence asked worriedly as we walked down the dark alley.
I chuckled softly, masking the growing doubt within me. The darkness of the alley concealed my true appearance, preventing him from seeing the extent of my uncertainty.
“Yes,” I calmly answered.
He took a deep breath and looked at me seriously.
“Don’t lie to me, Nala. I know you. You can lie to everyone, but not to me. I know you really don’t want to do this.”
Tss. Why did you ask if you already knew it then?
We stopped walking when we were almost out of the alley. I faced him. Even though it was dark, I could still see the worry in Lawrence’s eyes. Thanks for the few lights from the city building outside the alley.
Honestly, no one else seems to give a damn about what I'm going through right now. But you know what? This guy, he's been there for me. I mean, seriously, he's like my rock. When I needed someone the most, he didn't bail on me. And for that, I'm beyond grateful. It's rare to find someone who actually cares, you know?
“I know. I think you know me better than I know myself,” I said, chuckling. “Do I have a choice, Lawrence. Let's be real here, if I just sit on my ass and don't make a move, we're screwed. Like, seriously screwed. We'll be pushing up daisies before we know it. So yeah, I've accepted my fate, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna sit around and wait for the Grim Reaper to come knocking. I'm gonna do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means taking risks and making tough decisions."
“But you can look for a job. You graduated from junior highsch—”
“You know that I already tried to do that, right? Before you tell me what you’re talking about, why don’t you apply that to yourself first?” I cut him off.
Lawrence took a deep breath and remained silent.
I took my cigarette from the pocket of my loose, faded jeans and then lit the tobacco rod using the lighter I always carry with me.
I casually handed him a pack of Marlboro, tempting him to take a stick. Without hesitation, he accepted the offer. In a spontaneous act of camaraderie, we ingeniously glued the ends of our cigarettes together, ensuring that his cigar would have a light too. It was a clever way to share the enjoyment of smoking.
It's funny how we always end up doing that, even though we literally always have a lighter on us.
“What’s your plan, then? What if you get caught?” he suddenly asked after a long, deafening silence.
I laughed softly. “Why? Would you let me get caught?” I asked back.
“Of course not!”
“I'm not worried at all. With you by my side, Lawrence, I know I'm in good hands. You've got plenty of experience, so I trust you completely. I have no doubt that you'll keep me out of harm's way.”
He messed up my natural brown hair, which I inherited from my American father.
“I will protect you because you are important to me.”
“You’re disgusting!” I said, and then I slightly moved away from him.
“What?” He burst into laughter, unable to contain his amusement. But his laughter abruptly ceased when his ancient cherry mobile keypad phone began to ring, a device that seemed to have been around since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was so outdated, it could probably qualify as a relic in a museum.
“Yes, Balong?” I heard him open the conversation.
I smoked my cigarette until it burned down completely. Then, I casually flicked it onto the pavement and proceeded to stomp on it with great satisfaction, extinguishing the fire.
I turned in Lawrence’s direction, who had just finished talking to Balong— our leader.
“So, how was it?” I curiously asked.
“They were ready,” he said.
That is our cue.
I steadied my nerves with a deep breath before giving a nod of affirmation. Both Lawrence and I were clad in black hoodie jackets and black face masks, concealing our identities. Concern and hesitation were evident in Lawrence's eyes as he glanced at me once more.
“Let’s go,” I said seriously, because maybe if we stay here longer, I will back off.
“I’ll ask you again, Nala. Are you sure about this? You know I don’t want you to get hurt, right?”
“Yes, I know. Don’t talk too much. Let’s go. And yes, I’m sure about this. I’ve thought about this very well, Lawrence, so don’t ever try to stop me,” I said and started walking away from him.
It's 1 AM and the streets are practically empty. The alleys in Parañaque, Philippines, are eerily quiet and pitch black. We're feeling pretty confident that we won't get caught. It appears that the police have recently completed their patrol in this area.
I felt that Lawrence was just following me.
“Don’t go too far, Nala. Stay away from the CCTVs. Do you understand?” he simply said to me while we were walking as if we didn’t know each other.
“Yes, I know that. Balong already explained that earlier,” I said in a listless tone.
As discussed, we went through the dark part of Inferno Bar’s parking lot so that the CCTV would not catch us at the entrance. My heart was beating so fast as each second ticked by. I can feel cold beads of sweat forming on my forehead.
The bar was absolutely booming, even from outside. The music was blaring and the screams of the people inside were deafening. It's no doubt that things were getting wild in there, especially considering it was already one o'clock.
Rich people indeed.
It's ridiculous how some people splurge on unnecessary things while we struggle to survive. We're forced to resort to crime just to put food on the table. I get it, it's not entirely their fault, but seriously, they need to learn to appreciate what they have.
This is the first time that I am going to do what Lawrence has been doing for a long time, so I can’t help but be afraid of what might happen to me after this. I realized that no matter what changes I make to myself, I still fail at this kind of job.
Well, I'll be honest, it's pretty ironic. I made this grand promise to myself, swore up and down that I'd never go back to being the person I was before. But guess what? Poverty had other plans for me.
Can I really do this? Can I really let my hands get dirty?
“I-I... L-Love... you... Sis,” Nadine, my sister, said with difficulty earlier before I left the hospital.
Closing my eyes tightly, I knew I had to do this for my sister. Losing her is not an option. Nadine, the only family I have left, is in the hospital, and without money, she won't make it. I'll do whatever it takes for the person who means everything to me. I'm ready to get my hands dirty for my remaining family.
My eyes suddenly widened when I saw that Lawrence was no longer in front of me. I saw him heading to a red car, and he expertly opened the door with the wire and screwdriver he was carrying.
I remembered what Balong said earlier, before Lawrence and I left the abandoned factory that served as our hideout.
“If you don’t want to go behind bars, don’t do anything stupid. Is that clear?”
I couldn't help but bite my bottom lip as I surveyed the parking lot. It was a sea of beautiful, expensive cars. The kind that screamed wealth and privilege.
And here I was, with a plan forming in my mind. All I had to do was open one of those cars and clear out anything that could be sold.
Yes, I know that what I am going to do is illegal, and I might put myself in jeopardy or be imprisoned if caught, but I don’t care about that anymore. I’m sure I won’t get caught because there’s no one else here, and Lawrence won’t let me put myself in danger. I trust Lawrence.
I nervously swallowed the lump in my throat and set off on a mission to find a fancy car that could be easily opened. I mean, if I'm gonna rob a car, might as well make it a pricey one, right? And hey, if it's the most expensive car around, chances are the stuff inside will be worth a pretty penny too.
If I only knew how to drive a car, I would have stolen the car itself and sold it.
I just hope that I don’t get hurt by what I am going to do. My plan is too risky, but nothing will happen if I do nothing, right?
My eyes lit up like Christmas lights when I spotted it. There it was, a sleek black McLaren, parked all the way at the end of the lot. That car is seriously expensive. I know this because I've seen it in one of those fancy vehicle magazines that I saw from the trash.
I looked around to see if there was CCTV, and my ears almost clapped to each other upon seeing that there was none. I could no longer see Lawrence from where I was standing.
I pressed my face against the car window, eager to catch a glimpse of who might be inside. But damn, that tinted glass was playing tricks on me. Couldn't see a damn thing!
I took a deep breath because my heart was starting to beat faster. This is it. It’s happening. With my shaking hands, I grabbed the door handle of the car to check if it was locked or not, but my eyes widened when I confirmed that it was not.
I want to thank the owner of this car for being stupid for not locking his car.
I glanced around, making sure no one was watching. Swiftly, I unlocked the car and hopped inside. My fingers anxiously scratched at the backseat, revealing a mysterious black bag. Intrigued, I unzipped it to find a sleek black laptop and its trusty charger.
After thoroughly searching the car, I not only found the laptop but also stumbled upon a fancy cellphone and a classy brown wallet. There was a whole bunch of bull bill cash inside!
“Jackpot!” I whispered to myself and quickly took the money inside.
I finally decided to leave the car after five long minutes. I was feeling pretty good about what I had accomplished. But as soon as I closed the car door, my face turned pale when I felt something icy cold pressed against the back of my head.
“Who sent you here?” A freezing, deep baritone voice occupied my senses and quickly sent a shiver down my spine.
I'm frozen in place, completely clueless about my next move. The sensation of a frigid object pressed against my head sends chills down my spine, making it difficult to catch my breath. It's clear as day what that thing is, and I'm not about to play dumb. I know exactly what that thing is!
I wore a flimsy hoodie, just enough to let the frigid touch of metal tickle my scalp.
“Speak! Who fucking sent you here?!” he asked me flatly but more emphatically, and he pressed the gun on my head more.
Sweat is dripping from my forehead. My lips are also trembling because of nervousness. I shook my head because I didn’t want to say Balong’s name. I know what Balong can do. He can kill people when I sing his name to this man. My sister will perish!
“N-No one. I don’t know what you’re saying!” I said with a trembling voice.
He laughed because of what I said. “As expected from your answer,” he said. “Any last message?” he asked mercilessly, pressing the muzzle of the gun harder on my head.
I shook my head again. Is he going to kill me?
I won’t allow him!
“D-Don’t. Have mercy. I have a sister who depends on me. I’ll just return what I stole. J-Just... just don’t kill me,” I said desperately.
I don’t know how I said those things. I don’t know where I got the courage. There’s only one thing on my mind right now, and that’s that my sister still needs me. I can’t die yet!
Many scenarios are running through my mind right now. Where the heck is Lawrence? He promised he would not let me down! I really need him now!
As the gun vanished from my head, I instinctively turned to confront him, my heart pounding with fear. The darkness concealed his face, leaving me in the dark both literally and figuratively.
“Remove your mask and put down my fucking things,” he ordered coldly.
I gulped hard. My hand was shaking as I put down his things that I took from his car, and then I removed my black facemask.
I have never experienced such an intense fear before, not even when I was caught smoking at school and had to go to the guidance office. Surprisingly, I even found solace in the air-conditioned environment of the office.
My school’s guidance counselor and I became close because I was taken there almost twice a week. Fortunately, I was not kicked out of school, probably out of pity for me.
“Who are you?” asked the unknown man.
My head was still down, avoiding eye contact. Who wants to look at someone when their face is already out there for all to see? And let's not forget the whole stealing thing. Robbery is definitely a crime, no doubt about it. But is this guy a cop or something? Why on earth is he waving a gun around?
No way am I letting him catch a glimpse of my face. Gotta figure out how to ditch this guy. And damn, his ride is the priciest in this whole lot. Does that mean he's the richest too? Judging by his posture, he's not someone to mess with.
Fuck! How can you get through this, Nala! You are stupid!
He sighed. “I really hate repeating my words, so if you don’t have any plans to open your fucking mouth, then die—”
I cut him off mid-sentence and swiftly kicked his hand, sending the gun crashing to the ground. Clearly caught off guard, I seized the opportunity to deliver a swift kick to his nether regions. The satisfying groan of pain that followed was music to my ears.
“Fuck!” he roared.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and then took his wallet, which contained the money I got earlier from his car.
I thought I could already escape, but my eyes widened when he suddenly grabbed my leg. I looked at him. My lips parted when our eyes met.
His eyes are like two shimmering pools of gunmetal blue, their almond shape adding an air of mystery to his gaze. They possess a captivating glow, as if they hold a secret that only the darkness can reveal. These eyes are not just ordinary; they are extraordinary. They draw you in, making it impossible to look away.
I swallowed nervously, determined not to let his intense gaze overpower me. With a swift and forceful kick, I managed to free my leg from his grasp. The pain made him cursed.
“You’ll pay for this! I’ll make sure of that! I saw your face! You’ll regret messing with me!” I heard him shout as I ran away. My heart slowed down because of what he said.
He saw my face?!
I stopped running upon hearing Lawrence’s voice. There was a trace of concern on his face as he ran toward me. There is now a black backpack on his back that wasn’t there before.
“Where have you been? Are you okay? Why did you suddenly disappear? You should have waited for me because I was going with—”
“Shut up. Let’s get out of here!” I said and pulled his arm, and then we ran together.
“Where’s your face mask—”
“I said shut up! I will explain to you later! We have to get out of here. Faster!” I cut him off again.
He didn't say a word. Must've seen how freaked out I was. So we just kept on running. My heart was still pounding like crazy.
I have to prepare myself for tomorrow. I have to leave my sister with Lawrence because any time tomorrow; I am sure that there will be policemen knocking on my house’s door to arrest me because that man with strange eyes saw my face. And at that moment, I knew within myself that I had nothing to do.
You’re very dumb, Nala! Idiot!
CHAPTER 1: Arrested
Nala’s Point of View
"What the hell, Nala? Did you just say he saw your face?!" Lawrence exclaimed with wide eyes after I told him what happened earlier.
I rolled my eyes.
"Yes! Do I have to repeat it again? That’s why I am telling you that I need to leave Nadine to you in the meantime, right?" I said, annoyed, and then drank the redhorse alcohol in my glass. Its bitter taste caresses my throat.
"Are you stupid? Are you really going to jail? Don’t you intend to hide or run away from the police?!"
"Seriously, Lawrence, are you dumb too? Do you really think I didn't consider that? Obviously, I don't want to end up in jail, but let's face it, what we did was totally illegal. I'm not trying to act all high and mighty here, because let's be real, I got some benefit from the money I stole too. But I'm willing to face the consequences. I won't run away like a coward because
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