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Below is a section of writing from the novel currently being written by Abigail Brown, titled The Scarsdale House.

     “It really seems like you don’t want to sell it.” I can hear Kallen’s voice, but it sounds distant and foggy. I lost myself again, staring at the expertly engraved initials on the locket.

     “Huh?” I shake my head and look up. 

     “Natalie, this is weird,” they say quietly. “I’ve never seen you like this. It really seems like you don’t want to sell this thing.”

     I sigh, pinching the bridge of my nose between two fingers. I rub the area absentmindedly. “I guess not, huh?” I shove the necklace back into my pocket and lean over the counter. “I think I feel bad. No, actually, I know I feel bad, which is-”


     “I don’t know if it’s bad! Why didn’t I just go to a church and skim the offering plate?”

     Kallen laughs. “Okay, that’s taking it a little too far. Steal from people, not from God.”

     “You believe in God?”

     They shrug. “I dunno. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have this girl’s necklace and it kinda seems like you want to give it back to her.”

     “Is that what God would do?” I give them a slight smile.

     “Shut up. It was a stupid thing to say. You know the point I’m trying to make, Nat.”

     I shift my weight and sigh. “Yeah, I do.”

     “So you slept on it, right?”

     “Well, I slept on the cot, but yeah. I guess so.”

     Kallen chuckles. “I think you want to go give it back.”

     I mull it over for a moment. Give it back? That’d be a first for any thief. Not a single part of me wants to face Pascale again, let alone to sheepishly return something I feel bad about taking. It’s just a stupid necklace! I take a deep breath. 

     “It probably meant a lot to her.”

     Kallen nods. “Probably. But you’ve stolen valuables dozens of times before and never had a problem selling them to me.”

     “I know, that’s why I’m so confused.”

     “Are you confused?”

     "Of course I am! Why would you ask me something like that?”

     Kallen walks around the counter to lean beside me. “I think she threw you for a loop because you had a direct interaction. Remember when we met? You must’ve had a million things running through your mind. You were being confronted, but you were also being helped and welcomed in by someone you tried to steal from. It was weird. You probably thought about it for a long time.”

     “You know I did. It took me months to come see you again.”

     “Exactly. But I think this time, there’s another thing messing with your head.”

     I meet their gaze. “What?”

     Their eyes soften. “She’s pretty.”

     “I- what?” I’m taken aback. 

     “We both saw the picture inside the locket, and you saw her face-to-face.”

     “But the picture is so tiny! And blurry, and-”

     “It’s still obvious. She’s beautiful.”

     “I guess, but why does that matter?”

     “I dunno, Nat, you tell me.”

     “I-” I have nothing to say. Yes, Pascale was pretty. I noticed the second she caught me. And yes, the image of her face stares back at me every time my eyes close. But that’s just because it was a memorable moment. A terrifying, unpredictable moment in which I completely froze. I didn’t have time to think about whether or not Pascale was physically attractive. Stuff like that has never mattered to me. I’m always focused on my own survival, and nothing else. I don’t think I’ve ever even had a crush before. Maybe when I was a little kid, and some boy held my hand on the playground, but never anything serious. How could I? My life has always depended on my ability to be self-reliant and unattached. 

     Kallen goes back to shuffling jewelry around on the shelves. 

     “Even if I wanted to give it back, I- I don’t think I can.”

     “Why not?” Kallen asks. “You know where her house is.”

     I furrow my brows. “I literally can’t think of a worse idea than going back to her house. You want me to get arrested or something?”

     “Okay, so that’s not my best plan. But I’m sure you’ll figure something out. You always do.”

     “Thanks.” I say flatly. I take a step back from the counter and rest my hands on my hips. “I guess I should get going.”

     Kallen makes their way to the register. “You need a couple bucks?”

     “Nah. I’ll figure it out. I always do.”

     They smile. “At least take some change for a coffee or something.” They reach towards me with a handful of quarters, before producing a cigarette from their pocket. “You can have this, too. Might calm you down.”

     “Thanks Kal.” I accept the favor and lean in so Kallen can light the cigarette. I inhale deeply and cough. Classic.

     “Don’t mention it. Good luck out there.”

     I nod and exit the shop, handling the squeaky door as carefully as I can. I hang around the building for a minute, letting the nicotine do its job. My body relaxes, but my head is as clouded as ever. I wish I had my journal so I could attempt to straighten out my thoughts. Yet another thing I regret from the Scarsdale job. 

     The sky is cloudy and dark, even though it’s around noon. Kallen was right about that storm last night. It was a good thing I had their cot to sleep on. If I’d been in my dumpster I’d have been soaked. It’s still drizzling slightly, and I wonder if we’ll get more heavy rain. I suppose I ought to go back to the alley off 8th avenue and try to sort out how I’m feeling. I force myself to start walking, taking a drag from my cigarette every now and then. It’s menthol, which isn’t my favorite. When I’m finished, it leaves a taste in my mouth that I’m not a huge fan of, so I swing by a corner store and swipe a pack of gum. I’m unwrapping a piece when I hear a voice nearby.

     “You got any spare change?”

     I sigh and turn around to meet the gaze of a middle-aged man with tousled gray hair and a beard that could use some brushing.

     “Not really. I’m sorry,” I say quietly. “I’m homeless, too.” I suddenly feel tears spring into my eyes. I must be losing it.

     “Ah, shit. Nevermind then.” he chuckles. 

     I find myself walking faster. What is wrong with me? I can’t seem to think straight and my emotions are getting out of control. I’m usually so good at keeping myself in check, but I’m definitely slipping.

     In an attempt to pull myself together I take a detour on my way back to my dumpster. I stray a few blocks away, just enough to not be followed, and look around for a purse to get my hands on. There are a few older people who would be easy marks, but I’m feeling guilty enough as it is- which is something I still can’t wrap my head around. Pascale was rich. At least, she seemed rich. Why would I care that I’d deprived her of one goddamn piece of jewelry? It’s just like Robin Hood, right? Or Aladdin? I can’t even feed myself and she’s missing a locket?

     I’m beginning to feel angrier at myself for feeling this way, but the anger swirls in with the guilt, which then swirls back into the anger, creating a feeling I can only describe as gross. I feel gross.

     I shake my head and squeeze my eyes shut, drowning out my emotions for a split second. It’s enough time for the sky to decide to open again. I stand still for a moment, allowing the rain to fall on my face. It’s those small, sharp drops that sting your skin when they make contact. Not the nicest feeling. 

     I fish my jacket out of my bag and sling it over my shoulders, before heading in the general direction of my alley. Maybe I need more sleep. I suppose I can just crawl inside the dumpster and pretend nothing is real for a while. Sometimes that helps. 

     I used to do that when I first ran away. I’d block everything out and pretend none of it was real. It gave me enough time to find my bearings and steady myself when things became overwhelming, which was pretty often. I still have trouble believing I survived for this long, learning to live like this as a twelve-year-old kid. Every now and then I regret leaving home, but I think it was the right choice for me.

     When my mom died, I was only alone for a moment before her brother and his wife swooped in to take me. I hadn’t had a father for several years. He left to be a terrible parent to some other woman’s child. We never heard from him again. But my uncle and aunt were more than happy to press me into their mold of what the kid they never had could be. Sounds great, right? No.

     I mentioned earlier that I had nowhere to go when my mom passed. While not technically true, I couldn’t stand the thought of living in a home that wasn’t Mom’s. Especially not my uncle’s. He was the worst. He and my mom didn’t have a great childhood, but that doesn’t excuse his abusive behavior. He always treated her poorly, and then grew up to treat his wife poorly. I never knew why she stayed with him, but I was a little kid, so I was blind to a lot. 

     He couldn’t hide his awfulness from me, though. I may not have understood the nuances of adult relationships and behaviors, but I knew trouble when I saw it. So of course, I made up my mind immediately that I’d rather live on the streets than with him. I made my way to the city and stayed. I’m sure he tried to find me, but I didn’t leave any tracks. 

     I used to be pretty good at not leaving tracks, which is essential in my line of work. Unfortunately, when I dropped my journal after Scarsdale, my hot streak ended. As did my ability to function, apparently. I suppose I’m mad at myself for more than one thing. 

     The rain begins to lighten up as I turn the corner onto 8th Avenue. I drag myself down the block, almost looking forward to shutting out the world inside a damn dumpster. But as I approach my alley, something feels off. I feel a tension build in my body, and I hear a familiar voice.


     No way. It’s Heather. 

     I’m immediately angry. I have to physically restrain myself from punching her, and it almost doesn’t work. I’m milliseconds away from giving in and letting her have it when she shifts her weight awkwardly and I notice there’s another person behind her. 

     My heart leaps into my throat, and a cold sweat coats my entire body. Pascale.

     I’m so taken aback that I stumble and almost knock over a trash can. I steady myself and attempt to process what I’m seeing. Standing in front of me is the sheepish fourteen-year-old girl who hung me out to dry. She’s wringing her hands and her eyes are pleading with me. Why the hell is she here?

     And Pascale. Who else could that be? Long blonde hair cascades down her shoulders, dampened by the rain. Her white blouse is in blinding contrast to the blackened dumpsters and graffitied walls surrounding her. She couldn’t look more out of place, and she knows it. Her fingers are anxiously tapping on something. My journal. The fury that I’m desperately trying to hold back suddenly breaks free. I lunge at Heather. 

     The two of us go flying into a pile of trash bags and Pascale lets out a screech. Heather tries to fight back for a moment, before going limp and accepting her fate. I roll over beside her and punch her arm as hard as I can. 

     “Agh! Natalie, stop it!” I see the fear in her eyes the second the words leave her mouth. 

     “Stop it?” I manage to growl through gritted teeth. 

     “I know, I know!” she cries, “I deserve it, I’m sorry- please listen!”

     I punch the trash bag instead. “What the hell do you think you can say to me right now?”

     “I didn’t know I was gonna freak out like that! I know that doesn’t make it better, but please just let me apologize!”

     I take a deep breath, squeezing the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. The headache I have at the moment is unbelievable. 

     “Why are you here?” I ask, as calmly as I can manage. 

     “I didn’t run that far, I just couldn’t do what you wanted me to do. And when I saw you running too, I tried to stay hidden. But… she found me.”

     My attention turns to Pascale, standing a few paces away. She looks like she’s about to cry. 

     “She had your journal… you must have dropped it.” Heather says quietly. 

     “Yup.” I say.

     “And she wanted to know if I was involved, and I couldn’t lie, and-” her lower lip begins to quiver. “I said I might know some places where you might be, so she asked me to bring her. She just wants back whatever you took…”

     Good Lord, what a mess this is. Heather is sniffling rather dramatically, and Pascale looks terrified. I sigh loudly and stand up slowly. Pascale takes another step back. 

     “It’s okay,” I reach my hand out. “I’m not- we’re not-”

     “I know,” she says, almost in a whisper. “You won’t hurt me. Heather actually spoke rather highly of you.”

     I glance over at Heather, who is now full-on crying. I fumble through my bag for a tissue and toss it in her direction. It lands on the wet pavement, but she still takes it. I shake my head. 

     “Uh, alright…” is all I can think to say. 

     Pascale reaches towards me with my journal in her hand. I take it. 

     “My name is Pascale.”

      I nod. 

     “You broke into my house.”

     I nod. 

     Heather sits up and sniffles. I turn to face her. 

     “Do you think you can give us a minute?” I ask.

     “Oh, yeah. Sure.” she says, frantically removing herself from the pile of trash bags and walking towards the sidewalk. “I’ll just be around here.”

     “Yeah, fine.” I say, turning my attention back to Pascale. It feels like we’re back in her room. Me with my back to the wall, and her eyes wide, drinking me in. I try not to focus on how pretty she is. 

     “Why did you steal from me?” she asks calmly. 

     “Because I don’t have anything.” I answer, feeling embarrassed. 

     Her eyes soften. “Stealing is wrong, Natalie.” My heart skips a beat, and I’m about to say something along the lines of ‘it’s more complicated than that’, but my mouth can’t form the words.  

     “Heather told you my name.”

     “Yes,” she laughs. “But it was also written in your journal. Along with some pretty detailed admissions of guilt.”

     I rub the back of my neck with one hand and slip my journal into my bag with the other. 

     “Yeah, um, I have a terrible memory so I need to write stuff down.”

     “But what if someone caught you?” She steps towards me and my breath catches in my throat. “You could end up in really big trouble.”

     Her voice is soft and melodic, with a slight French-Canadian accent. I bite my lip and try to focus on how it hurts, instead of on her. 

     “Mhmm.” I nod. “I guess I could.”

     “It’s a good thing I found it.” She tilts her head to one side. “I’m not interested in getting you in trouble. I just want my necklace back.”

     I consider playing dumb. What necklace? But I have nothing to work with. Heather sold me out, and Pascale is too smart to fall for anything like that. I take yet another deep breath and steady myself.

     “I felt really bad after I took it,” I admit. “I still don’t know why.”

     “Probably because you were stealing.” Pascale says flatly.

     This time I’m able to form the words. “It’s so much more complicated than that. It’s... It’s- I have to survive! You were just a means to an end, and I-”

     “I’m not angry with you.” She says. My eyes meet hers. Soft, grayish-green and full of life. I can only imagine what my eyes look like to her. Cold, hopeless, empty. 

     “You’d have every right to be.” I say quietly. 

     “I know, but I’m not.” She steps towards me again, this time reaching for my hand. Too stunned to move, I let her take it. 

     “Uh-” I start to mumble, then think better of it. 

     Pascale smiles at me. “I know you’re in a bad situation. Honestly if you had taken something else, I wouldn’t have gone after you. It’s just that…” her voice trails off. 

     “The locket means a lot to you.”

     She nods. “Yes. More than you could possibly know. I just want it back. I’m not mad.”

     I feel my cheeks getting warm. I want to run away, but my legs are glued to the pavement. She’s still clasping my hand in both of hers. 

     “I… I need the money.”

     She raises an eyebrow. “I have some on me, if that helps.”


     “I’ll give you money if you give me the necklace.”

      I can’t help but laugh nervously. “You want to… buy back… your own necklace? That I stole from you?”

     She shrugs and lets go of my hand. “If it’ll mean I get it back, then yes. I do.” She starts to laugh, too. This is the most ridiculous interaction I’ve ever had. I cover my face with my hands and let out a half-laugh, half-sigh, which quickly spirals into a full laugh. I suppose both of our emotions have been so all over the place that we’re finally breaking down. She tries to compose herself, but ends up laughing harder, which makes me laugh harder, though I’m not entirely sure anymore what we’re laughing about. Eventually, I collapse into the pile of trash bags behind us and catch my breath. She does the same. I almost gasp. 

     “Your sweater!”

     This sends her into another fit of laughter. “It’s not my favorite.” She pauses to look around, before squeezing her eyes shut and opening them again, faced with the same view. Neither of us is dreaming. 

     “So... this is where you live?” she asks quietly.

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