• Mai-lynn Yuhara awoke to a killer headache. The buzz she had felt the previous night had faded and she was now left with a hangover. Silence crawled into her ears. Even with no sound her head was screaming at her.
    The fourteen year old sighed and opened her eyes. Bright sunlight filled the small room. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. There was a struggle inside as she tried to keep her eyes open, and open her throbbing mind. She couldn’t remember any details from the previous night. All Mai-lynn recalled was she had drank enough to party until about two in the morning.
    That was when the temporary high from the many beers she had drunk began to fade. She could have drunk more to continue partying but she decided against it, knowing she would probably just make herself sick.
    So Mai-lynn had drowned out the noise from the dying party and passed out on the couch. It wasn’t even her couch, it was her friend’s. And it smelled of everything you could find in a crowd of no good, punk teenagers; cigarettes, beer, too much cologne and perfume among other scented substances. No one had disturbed her on that couch, the remaining members of the party let her fall into a drunken sleep.
    After her eyes had adjusted to what was likely the afternoon sunlight, she sat up and looked around. The room was a horrible mess from the party. Empty cups, beer bottles, pizza boxes and chips littered the coffee table as well as the hard wood floor. No one else was in the room so she guessed everyone else was sober enough to find themselves somewhere else to crash for the night.
    Dizziness swept over Mai-lynn and she began to feel nauseous. She groaned and got up off the couch. Her head spun, she was trying to hold her stomach back.
    She quickly made it to the bathroom of the house she knew quite well, shutting the door behind her.


    After spending sometime on the tiled floor by the toilet, Mai-lynn found the strength to get up. She washed her mouth out with some cool tap water from the bathroom sink. She then searched the medicine cabinet and found a bottle of Advil. She removed the cap and swallowed a couple, chasing them down with tap water. Putting the bottle back where she found it, she also came across something for her stomach. After taking a few more pills, she closed the medicine cabinet, not wanting to fill her recovering body with too many drugs.
    Mai-lynn sighed and washed her face with cold water. Trying to wash away her hang over. Using a hand towel, she dried her pale face. She stood in front of the mirror examining herself.
    Her hazel eyes stared back at her. There was still a trace of her make up from yesterday but she could take care of that later. As far as she knew, she didn’t have any plans for the day.
    Her short black hair was a little out of place. Quickly she ran her fingers though it so she looked somewhat presentable.
    Once this simple attempt at grooming was complete Mai-lynn sat down on the counter. She took her cell phone out of her jeans pocket.
    The screen read seven new messages, two voicemails and four missed calls. She only had to scroll through the first few text messages to see it was all from Caleb, her seventeen-year-old brother.
    He had been worried and wanted to know where she was. She sighed. It seemed these days all he ever did was worry about his little sister.
    She quickly sent him a message to assure she was fine and there was no need to worry.

    “Sorry, partied at Jamie’s and passed out. Be home soon.”

    She pressed send, closing the phone and returning it to her pocket. She slid off the counter, standing up on her wobbly legs. It took her a moment to steady herself. After taking one more glance at her reflection, Mai-lynn left the bathroom.
    In the dark hallway, Jamie’s bedroom door opened. The blonde sixteen year old poked her head out. She smiled at Mai-lynn.
    Jamie came into the hallway, quietly shutting the bedroom door behind her. She wore a black, button down, long sleeve shirt. It came halfway down to her thighs, and it was obvious the buttons had been hastily done up.
    The shirt likely belonged to whoever the guy was in her room. As far as Mai-lynn could tell that was all she had on.
    At first glance, Jamie may seem like one of those New York, teenage sluts, and well that was pretty much true. She had dyed blonde hair, an interesting wardrobe and make up to match.
    Sure, she drank and did some drugs. She loved to party and went through an uncountable amount boyfriends in a month.
    All the rumours around school could tell you everything about who Jamie was, but not the girl Mai-lynn saw.
    Inside Jamie was a sweet person. She was always there to talk, and even offered good advice at times. She had been through a lot growing up, and could offer more sympathy than any know-it-all adult had to give. No matter what, she would be your shoulder to cry on and would hold your hand in the toughest situations.
    She was Mai-lynn’s closest friend and had been since the seventh grade, where they had first met.
    Mai-lynn leaned against the doorframe of the bathroom. She smiled at her friend.
    “Sleep well babe?” Jamie asked.
    She shrugged to the question. “Yeah, guess so. Took a couple Advil a few minutes ago to help with the headache,” she said.
    Her friend nodded. “Figured you would. You were out cold last night, your phone didn’t even wake ya’.”
    As if on cue, her phone vibrated and played the tune of a song. Mai-lynn reached into her pocket and opened the message.

    "B there in 5, you Rn’t walking alone."

    A smile flashed across her face. Their apartment was only a few blocks away but her brother hated her walking alone in Brooklyn. His loving concern over her made her feel good.
    Jamie’s voice broke her thoughts, “Going home?” She asked.
    Mai-lynn closed the phone and nodded. Jamie moved forward, the space between their bodies was now only a few inches. She ran her hand through Mai-lynn’s hair.
    “Don’t forget, I’m always here for you,” she said resting her palm on her cheek.
    She nodded and hugged her friend, the embrace lasted for a while.
    One of the things she loved about Jamie, was she was always able to see right through her. Whenever something was weighing on her, she knew. She never forced her to talk but always offered comfort and open arms.
    Mai-lynn forced a smile. “Better get going, Caleb is probably waiting,” she said.
    Jamie pulled away and nodded. “Okay, see ya’ later girl,” she said.
    As Mai-lynn walked back through the living room, she noticed the small apartment was as thrashed as the one room. She felt a pang of guilt for leaving her friend to clean the mess on her own.
    “Don’t worry about the mess hun’, I will just get the next sucker who walks in to help me clean,” Jamie said from behind, obviously noticing Mai-lynn hesitate about leaving.


    The dirty New York air felt refreshing to her. It was better than the air in Jamie’s stuffy apartment. Mai-lynn inhaled deeply as she walked down the front steps of the apartment building. The soothing noises of the city flowed into her eardrums. On the sidewalk, leaning against a stop sign was her brother.
    Caleb grinned at her when she approached. He ran his hand through her hair, messing it up.
    “Hey kiddo,” he said, in a welcoming, paternal-like tone.
    Mai-lynn quickly fixed her hair and smiled at him. “Hey Caleb.”
    They began walking down the street together. Brooklyn wasn’t exactly the cleanest place to live. Much like the rest of New York, it was dirty, crowded and had many homeless.
    To make things worse, they didn’t live in the greatest neighbourhood. Gangs, drug dealers, as well as drugies made the streets quite dangerous, even in broad daylight. Police rarely bothered with the crimes here, unless they involved someone more important or were serious crimes. As far as she knew, most crimes went unreported, no one bothered with what was seen as American slums.
    Despite everything, it was where Mai-lynn called home. It was far from perfect but that seemed to fit her life perfectly.
    “Have a good night?” Caleb asked.
    Mai-lynn nodded, glancing at him through the hair that covered her eyes.
    “What did you do last night?” she asked.
    He shrugged in response. “Work, came home, went to bed.” His voice trailed off as though there was probably more underneath what he spoke of.
    Mai-lynn knew there was more to his night but he wouldn’t continue. He had probably had another fight with their father and had been up most of the night worrying about her. The amount of messages he had sent made that clear. Silence tied these unspoken stories between them.
    They were now on the elevator heading to their sixth floor apartment. She had barely been paying attention as they had walked the familiar streets of their neighbourhood.
    As the elevator moved, stopping at every floor letting people either on or off, she studied her brother.
    Caleb was fairly tall, a little more than six feet, well built, strong from hard work. His hands were calloused from working constantly. She wasn’t even sure how many part time jobs he currently held. Though she did know for sure, he had had more jobs than their father ever had in his lifetime.
    She looked at his face. His dark brown hair was cut short, just the way he liked it. His face looked exactly like their father’s but had the gentleness of their mother’s face.
    His hazel eyes were the same colour as hers. Unlike hers, his eyes looked a lot more tired and weary. He appeared so much older than he truly was.
    “Come on kid.” Caleb said, catching her staring at him. He led the way off the elevator and down the dirty, dimly light hallway to their apartment.
    Caleb opened the door of apartment #32 and she followed him in. The place seemed to be even messier than usual. The air was thick with cigarette smoke.
    After removing their shoes, they stepped into the small living room. Plain, with grey carpeting and dirty white walls, just like the rest of the house.
    In the living room, their father stood in front of a bookshelf. Flipping through books and throwing them to the floor, while cursing and mumbling under his breath.
    Defensively, Caleb stepped in front of her. “Hey dad, what are you looking for?” He asked in a calm voice, though lacking any family love. That love died long ago.
    He glanced up at his son, his dark eyes filled with rage. Hollow circles surrounded his bloodshot eyes.
    “Money!” He yelled, letting another book land on the floor with a loud thump, echoing his voice.
    Mai-lynn’s heart sped up. She waned to grab onto her brother’s hand like when she was younger but she fought that urge and stood still, behind his tensed body.
    Caleb’s eyes locked onto their father’s eyes. “What, you going to buy groceries or maybe pay the rent?” He replied. His voice stayed calm but the coldness edged every word in ice.
    A small glass figurine was picked up off the bookshelf. Their father’s hand curled around it for a moment. And then it went flying into the wall, just behind Mai-lynn. Shattering to pieces.
    Their father’s voice rose as he told Caleb to shut up, senseless profanity came from his mouth.
    Caleb’s eyes clouded with anger when he saw how close the object had come to hitting Mai-lynn. “Mai, go to your room.” Her brother instructed.
    Without hesitation, she retreated to her room. As she passed the glass on the floor, she recognized the figurine as an angel their mother had given Caleb. She had given it to him when he had just started high school, saying it was his guardian angel sent to protect him.
    Once in her small bedroom, she shut the door behind her. She crossed the room to her dresser that held her clothes. On top of the dresser was her CD player. She turned it on and her Shinedown CD began to play. She turned up the volume to drown out the yelling and swearing in the living room.
    Mai-lynn flopped down on her bed, burying her face in her pillow.
    Caleb and her father always fought. It was normally over money. Though, sometimes he was so strung out on drugs he simply yelled for no real reason. Paranoid, Caleb called it.
    Mai-lynn was used to this reality. It was just how things were. Caleb was always the one who fought with their father. He wouldn’t allow him to take his anger out on Mai-lynn, he always protected her.
    Life wasn’t always this bad, back when their mother was still around. Sure, even then, their father had a drinking problem but at least he was clean of drugs.
    On those nights, when their father was drunk and had an anger outburst Caleb had been the one who would step in and protect their mother. Despite the size differences between the drunken man and mere boy, Caleb took every enraged insult and cowardly punch their father had to offer.
    Mai-lynn longed to go back to those days when their mother was still around and things were never that bad. Then, they at least had moments where they were a happy family.
    But now those times were lost in old photographs and faded memories. The night they had lost their mother, they had lost their family.
    It happened a few years ago, around the beginning of the seventh grade, Mai-lynn had been out with her brother. She could remember, it was a warm Saturday night. Their father was at the bar, drinking. Their mother alone in their old apartment.
    They were sent to the near by convenience store to buy some groceries. Upon returning, they found their mother on the bedroom floor. They had only left her for no more than fifteen minutes but there she was. She was face down, resting in her own blood. A gun in her hand. A .5mm bullet through the head had rescued her from her hell of a life.
    She had left them a note but Caleb had taken it before she had a chance to read it. Even now, she still didn’t know what it read.
    That was the night their family ended. Mai-lynn never held a grudge on her mother for the choice she made. She could see why she couldn’t handle it anymore.
    Their father had received the news at the bar and didn’t even bother returning home for a few days.
    Mai-lynn sighed at the old memories. The CD ended and her room became silent. There was still a fight raging outside her room.
    She sighed and got up to change the CD.
    She was sure the neighbours could hear the loud music and fighting going on in their apartment. She was also aware they simply did not care. It was the sad truth of the 21st century, especially in New York. Few cared, unless it affected them. Those that did care, usually only cared because it made them look better. No one around these parts bothered to look better than their filthy slum stereotype.
    This was the life she had to put up with. Barely having money, a broken family, her brother working hard for her sake and a drug addicted father.
    Scratch that, he really wasn’t her father, not anymore. He was just the drug addict that came around their house every now and again, weighing his problems onto them. Or at least trying to. Caleb took all of the physical weight. She just carried the emotional weight. Watching it all happen, wanting to go back to when they were a family. Silently praying that maybe one day her father would stop bothering them.
    Despite everything, this was her home, her life and as far as she knew it wasn’t going to change, no matter how much she wished it would.