CROW (Boston Underworld Book 1)

By: A. Zavarelli

The crow symbolizes many things in different cultures. Magic, transcendence, destiny, intellectual awakening. A physical representation of the space between heaven and earth. The interpretations are vast and far reaching. But when the magic and lore have been stripped away, all that’s left is reality. For me, only one interpretation comes to mind. At its most basic, and especially to me, the crow symbolizes death.

My eyes fall shut as I straighten my arms and exhale, sending my legs up into a perfect handstand. Three deep breaths. In through my nose, out through my mouth. My balance has never been better. Coordination is on point. Core strength? Rock solid. I could probably hold this pose for a couple hours if I really wanted to. But before I even get a chance to gloat, Scarlett smacks her gum from across the room.

“You’re losing focus, Mack.”

I smirk and melt into Scorpion pose without a response. She knows damn well I’m as focused as I’ve ever been, but she’d rather die than admit it. Scarlett doesn’t want me to go on my insane pilgrimage. Over the last few months she’s resorted to some pretty creative speeches as testament to that, so the fact that we’re back to this old ploy tells me this is her last ditch effort. It would be sweet if she didn’t look so defeated.

Dressed in the second skin she calls a black dress and tall red heels, there’s no doubt where she’s off to tonight. Out of ten, Scarlett’s a fifteen. A drop dead knockout. It’s too bad she doesn’t even know it. Her brunette hair is teased to perfection as always, her hazel eyes lined with Kohl, and her cute little glitter clutch is no doubt chock full of condoms.

Scarlett’s a call girl, and another friend I picked up on the street. It just so happened to be her dark alley that two guys pushed me and Tal into one night. I was thirteen at the time, and hard as bricks for my age, but not tough enough to take on two guys. Scarlett was four years older, and a hell of a lot wiser, and also… she carried a knife. She saved me that night, much as it pains me to admit it.

We aren’t as close as Tal and I were, but we’re about as close as two people like us can be I suppose. She’s just another run of the mill kid who fell through the system’s cracks with a story that managed to thaw even my cold heart. If there’s anyone who knows what makes a man tick, it’s Scarlett.

Easing back onto the floor, my gaze finds hers as I stretch out my legs. “The day I lose focus is the day that I die.”

Those were my father’s words, and they’ve never been truer. He lost focus when he got involved with the Russians, and now he’s six feet under. I don’t want to believe I’m destined to the same fate, and yet this world keeps pulling me back in.

“You want to know what I think, babe?” Scarlett crosses her legs and smooths out a wrinkle in her dress.

“Nope.” I roll my neck from side to side until it cracks. “I don’t.”

She continues on anyway. Our usual routine.

“I think you should take all of that money you saved up, give it to that private investigator of yours, and focus on things you can control. Like going to college or doing something with your life.”

“Hmmph.” I snort. “Says you. How come I can do that, but you can’t, Scarlett?”

She’s quiet for a moment, her pretty face falling with defeat.

“You don’t have to do this,” she insists.

“And you don’t have to go out tonight and sell your body,” I retort.

She sighs and finishes for me. “And yet we both will.”

“It is what it is, Scarlett. We’re fucked up. But Talia…”

I don’t finish that thought. There’s no need to. We both know that Talia was the most fucked up out of all of us. She never stood a chance. Even now, speaking her name makes my chest constrict with grief. Scarlett can see it, but doesn’t make a big production of it. She knows me better than that.

“Let me help you,” she offers.

It’s not often I feel warmth in my cold, dead heart. But as my eyes rove over Scarlett’s tiny form on the sofa, I do. Beneath her barbed wire armor lies a heart of gold. She’s far too good to be hanging out with the likes of me, and yet here she is.

“I need you to stay out of it,” I tell her. “You know that.”

What little light that remains in her eyes dims, but it’s for her protection. Scarlett has self-destructive tendencies. She likes to be reckless. It’s her own fucked up way of coping with the things that happened to her. But I do not and will not condone that behavior for her.

Myself, however, is a different story. We both know this is my last day in Southie. Tomorrow I’m moving to a shitty motel in Roxbury and beginning a new chapter of my life. One in a world I may not make it out of alive. If Talia’s track record is anything to go by, then there’s every chance I won’t be. I refuse to bring anyone else into this mess, so as agreed upon previously, she won’t be kept in the loop.

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