My parent may have been on the run, but they still needed to work. With all of their money spent on the hospital trip, they were back to peddling. They set up shop at the opposite end of town, and wore disguises to reduce the risk that anyone who knew them would see. If anyone were to locate my parents, it would take a great deal of motivation and money. Victoria had both.
Victoria had made a habit of befriending and buying a number of spies in the kingdom. Her money got her the information, but the loyalty ensured she would be the only one receiving it. When she built her network, she didn’t have a plan for it. But she was certain that one day she would use it. The day had come.
Word reached her about where my parents had stationed their cart, and of the small infant that they attempted to keep hidden. They were on the far side of town. So far, in fact, that they were nearly out of the city. The area they set up in was hardly the sparkling metropolis of downtown. This area, between the edge of the city and the cliff face, was where the in-between lived. They were not rich enough to afford a high-rise in the epicenter of the city, but not poor enough to be banished across the bridge, either. Others were on the outs with the Emperor. Favor or influence kept them alive, but not enough to keep them in style.
Apartment buildings gave way to cottages, which gave way to nothing but open space. The apartments were only a few stories tall, and were wanting in the state of their repair. Still, these people had coin. So merchants visited them, as well. It was trickier to get this far across the city and back across the bridge before nightfall. Most only traded here out of necessity.
Victoria walked down the littered streets. This close to the ocean, the air had an unpleasant fishy smell. She resisted the urge to pull her scarf over her face. To do so would make it more obvious that she didn’t belong here. She needed to be trusted.
All along the streets, carts and cloth covered, wooden structures had been set up. She walked past stall after stall. Every merchant got their hopes up as she passed, and whispered obscenities and insults when she didn’t stop to buy.
“Hey lady, I know you need a new carpet for those beautiful feet. Come on, take a look, your toes will thank you,” a merchant said.
She smiled, but kept on past.
“Fish!” someone yelled to her, forcing one to her face.
“No, thank you,” she said pushing past him.
The merchants in this part of the city were far pushier than she was used to. Victoria felt both uncomfortable around these people and sorrowful for their plight. Pushy as they were, she knew that it was due only to the Emperor’s laws. He forced them into poverty, made them this way.
Near an alley, she saw a familiar face. It was the man who had told her to come here. He wore tattered clothing. His pants were at least two sizes too big, held up by a length of frayed rope. His face sported a long and curly beard. His face was sun weathered and displayed the history of his hard life. He hung at the edge where the streets met and waited for Victoria, smiling at the sight of her.
She went to him and handed him a bag full of coin. He took the purse and pointed. Her sight followed the trail of his gesture. Just across the way, she saw them. My parents. Then, she saw me.