The Leigh Theory
I have learned the art of persuasion.
The following days ever since we became Mabel’s assistants went on like the first time that we helped her. There were days when we weren’t able to sell everything but Mabel certainly earned more than her usual upon our arrival.
One day, as we returned a few crates to the Harris house, Marvin asked for our help with a large baking machine. It was probably a dough mixer, but I didn’t bother asking. He asked us to carry it and dump it into a rusty, steel shack at the back of their house. I must say, it was pretty heavy.
“I’m afraid to carry that thing because I don’t want to hurt myself any further. I might look muscular but I have a problematic lower back,” he explained as he removed the lock in the door of the shack.
The inside was a dusty storage room, filled with other out-of-commission baking equipment and a few other scraps. The room had two, dusty windows and, like other houses in the city, it didn’t have a single light bulb.
We carefully placed the equipment on a flat surface and I couldn’t help but notice that the room was quite spacious. I looked around and I said to myself that the place was perfect.
“Sir, do you use this shack for other things?” I asked.
“Not really. It just has been a storage room for damaged things for years now. Why do you ask?” Marvin replied as he curiously looked at me.
It might seem like we’ve been taking advantage of the Harris family but I just wanted to shoot my shot. I bluntly asked him if Leo and I could use the shack and make it our temporary house.
“What?! No, you can’t!--” he immediately answered.
Of course. He must’ve realized that we might have been taking advantage of their kindness. I was about to apologize but he continued talking.
“--It’s literally a dump! Can’t you see the dirt and dust in this room? I won’t allow you to live in such conditions!” he added.
I was flabbergasted. I thought that he just didn’t want to give anymore to us. At that moment, I thought, maybe, I could also trust other people like how I trusted Leo.
“Oh sir, we’ve had worse living conditions before and a couple of metal scraps aren’t enough to bother us. Trust us, this is waaay better than what we used to have,” Leo proudly answered.
Marvin scratched his head as he heard Leo’s explanation. He went silent for a few seconds and thought about it, then eventually agreed with us.
"Come to think of it, where have you been staying all this time?" Marvin asked.
"Well, we've been living in an alleyway ever since we came here," I replied.
He probably didn't realize that we've been homeless since he met us. His eyes widened and he began to look around. He immediately tried to arrange a few metal pieces lying on the floor. We immediately stopped him and said that we will be the ones to clean the place.
“Alright, I'll let you be. If you need help, just knock on our house, okay?” he said to us and tapped our shoulders, then left.
We had to give back to the Harris family for their generosity, and our service was the only thing that we could trade. We had to help them in any way possible to make up for the things they have given to us.
We used our entire afternoon to renovate the shack since the bakeshop was still closed and the fruits had already sold out. We began by arranging the other machines and equipment to maximize the space. We then borrowed a broom to sweep the floor. We used our sacks as rags to clean the windows.
In a few hours, the room suddenly became habitable. We used a few plywoods, stacked from a corner, for our beds. We were even able to come up with a make-do table and two chairs. We then used our sacks as curtains for the windows. Lastly, we had candles, which we brought earlier, for our light source.
I placed my bracer on the table and opened it to check its connections. Thankfully, we were surrounded by a few machines that I could fiddle with; either fix them or take out a few components and use them to upgrade my bracer.
“Hey, how long do you think this laser gun can last?” Leo asked me as he placed the gun on the table.
I’ve never learned anything about lasers but all I knew was that there was a heating system that was mainly involved with the generation of laser beams. I searched for that heating system until I found it situated right above the handle. Probably.
“I don’t know much about lasers but I think this gun has a couple more shots left. Its heating system has signs of over-heating already, probably due to prolonged use or this was made using sub-standard materials,” I explained to him while pointing at the presumed heating system.
It wasn’t just the laser gun; the wirings inside my bracer, especially the ones connected to the cutter, have also started to become worn out. It was to be expected as the bracer was made with rusty and damaged materials.
While I tinkered with the bracer, Leo went out to buy something to eat; we’ve been eating real food for a while now, thanks to our new jobs. As I was busy with the bracer, I heard a soft knock on the door. I quickly hid the bracer behind the other scraps and went to open it.
I was visited by an angel in the middle of the night.
“Hello, my dad wanted to give you these extra pillows and blankets. Also, here’s some fresh orange juice. I just made it a while ago,” Mabel said as she hugged the pillows and blankets while holding a small pitcher in her right hand.
I immediately grabbed the pitcher and placed it on the table, then grabbed the pillows and blankets and placed them on our plywood beds. She then entered the shack and looked around.
“Oh my, you did renovate this dirty shack. I didn’t expect that it had this much space!” she exclaimed as she roamed around the room.
We talked for a while as she looked at the broken equipment in the shack; she was responsible for some of the damaged equipment. A few seconds later, I heard a few things fall on the roof that suddenly got louder and louder.
It was the first rain that I experienced after a few months. Due to the pollution, rainfall has been quite rare since the Great Decline. I suddenly got worried for Leo and rushed to the door with a metal plate to cover my head but the door instantly opened and Leo, drenched in rain, immediately entered.
“Quick! Find something to store some of the rainwater!” he exclaimed.
He placed the meatballs that he bought on the table and helped me carry some of the smaller equipment that could potentially store water. Mabel went to help us as well, making Leo realize that she was there.
“Goddess– I mean, Mabel! What are you doing here?!” he asked as he stepped back in shock.
“Let’s talk later! Right now, I’ll help you with these!” she replied.
The three of us went outside to catch the falling rain with anything that we could get our hands into; dough mixers, jars, a broken bucket, and a few other things. I closed my eyes and appreciated the raindrops falling on my head; it’s been a while since I soaked in the rain.
Mabel ran to an open space, spread her arms open, and danced on the wet ground.
Leo and I froze as we watched an angel descend from the heavens to play under the pouring rain. It was quite dark but I could still see the silhouette of her figure, emphasized by her wet clothes.
It was a sight to behold.
Marvin suddenly busted out of their door and yelled at Mabel. Turns out, according to her dad, she always had a habit of soaking in the rain whenever it falls, then she’d be sick for a couple of days.
And that exactly happened.
“Hello, good morn– Achoo!” she greeted us with a morning sneeze.
“This girl had to play in the rain. I’ve been telling her to not do that but she never listens!” Marvin told us while shaking his head.
Four days have passed since the rain and Mabel still wasn’t feeling quite well. We were invited by the Harris family to go somewhere to buy a few things. Shopping, in rich person terms.
Upon our arrival in the city, we noticed that there were no homeless people in sight. We learned that the main part of the city was just a facade of a more disheartening reality.
The deeper parts of the city were filled with people sleeping on the streets, a few children crying, and most of them looked pretty malnourished. It felt painful as I also experienced this kind of life, even for just a short while.
Before we left their house, Marvin brought a small bag of bread. I thought it was for their lunch or something, but it was actually for the homeless people. I turned to Leo and saw that he was in a very serious mood. I knew that he was gravely affected, given his background.
As we kept walking, we arrived in a quiet part of the city with people roaming around. I couldn’t see any shop or stall but most of the people kept on going in and out of a few establishments. We went inside a small house to our right and as we entered it, I saw the room full of people.
“This is one of the black market establishments in the city. Prices here are cheap but stocks are very limited,” Mabel whispered to us.
I looked around and saw various things on display. I had one thing in mind that I wanted to buy so I went and asked Leo if I could use a little bit of our money. I noticed that he was still affected by the scene earlier as he nodded apathetically.
Mabel, who noticed it as well, went to lock their arms and dragged Leo somewhere. I hope that he could recover by being in the presence of an angel.
For quite some time now, I’ve been wanting to buy something that could cover the scar and burns on my arms as we didn’t have any clothes with sleeves that could extend up to the wrist.
The scars didn’t bother me that much but I thought to myself that it might’ve been jarring for others to see.
I bought a pair of black arm sleeves and immediately put them on. It fitted my arms perfectly and it felt comfortable. I then walked towards Leo, who was finally back to his outgoing self, and Mabel, who was busy finding clothes that could fit Leo.
As Leo grabbed the pouch from me and insisted to Mabel that he’ll pay her, I looked around and noticed three suspicious people, wearing brown hoods and coats. They weren’t buying or checking things; they just stood still with their eyes wandering around the room.
I asked Mabel where Marvin was and she told me that he was looking for a new dough mixer since he couldn’t afford one if he brought it directly from shops owned by Paradise. I grabbed Mabel’s arms and whispered that she must find her dad and immediately get out of the establishment. She looked confused but she nodded and went to find her dad.
“Oliver, what’s wrong?” Leo looked concerned as he asked me.
“There are suspicious people around and I’m having a bad feeling about this. I’ll take care of the two, so please hurry and get our weapons,” I ordered him.
He quickly dashed across the room and went out of the establishment. I went to look for Mabel and Marvin but he was still checking out a dough mixer while Mabel was pulling his arm. I went closer to him and pleaded that we must get out immediately.
Irritated, Marvin agreed with us and went outside as Mabel kept on pulling his arm. As soon as we went out, I explained to them that suspicious people were lurking inside the establishment.
A few moments later, people started screaming while running outside of the buildings then suddenly, one of the shops exploded. As soon as chaos erupted, we ran away from the area.
My heart began to race and I couldn’t catch my breath. I muttered, with my shaky voice, as we escaped the scene.
“Please, gods of fate, don’t take my peace away."