Writing Prompt: The Odd Hire

Taken from my old Wattpad stuff (I know, I know), this is a hark back to an earlier style but still one of my favourites of the few writing prompt ideas I ran with. Enjoy, and possibly look out for additions to the story at a later date.

(You are an Assassin. A little girl has just come up to you, handed you all her pocket money and asked you to kill her abusive relative.)

Lights hung strewn haphazardly from lampposts, trees and store signs, twinkling in their reds, golds and greens like stars through chocolate wrappers. The people below them hustled and bustled in the way all people do on busy streets, moving through the freezing cold from one store to another, slowly building up bags carrying everything they’d need for the coming days. A man walking his black-lab along the sidewalk, a ribbon tied around a massive bone. Mother and Daughter walking together, shopping for their respective partners and exchanging tips on the best gifts for them. The scuffs and snow on a battered pair of sneakers, worn by a homeless man jingling a cup for –

Cut short as his stride was, blocked by a small girl in the middle of the sidewalk, the Assassin was lifted from his deep train of thought. She was looking up at him curiously. He returned the gesture, looking down at her with his lips mid-sip of his tea. The edges of his lips curled slightly, and he tipped his cup towards her in a half-wave that she returned, never breaking eye-contact.

“Hi” she grinned, the word only just escaping her mouth as her teeth clamped down and her lips drew up to the edges of her bobble-hat to expose them. The smile looked half-forced, as if she’d been told to do so for a camera, and he returned that gesture also, minus the bared teeth and with eyebrows raised to meet his receding hairline.

“Hi… Are you lost?” he said, nervously chuckling. He wasn’t bad with kids per-say, but… well, he didn’t often get the chance to talk to one. Not that he didn’t see them all the time, of course, at the funerals, but that wasn’t quite the same. He definitely didn’t want to talk to them there. The girl’s smile faded momentarily, and as if she had just woken up she looked around her, seeing the passers-by on either side of them like two rivers flowing parallel to one-another.

“Actually…. yes, I think.” she murmured, slightly lost in the midst of such a sea of bodies.

“But I’ve found you now, so that’s fine!” Her smile returned, standing up straight and clicking her boot heels together almost comically as she looked back at his face again, fixing on his eyes. Now it was his turn to be lost in the unsurprisingly-unique situation he found himself in. “Who do you think I am?” sounded cruel aimed towards such a bubble of energy, especially in this miserable city, but he didn’t quite know how else to voice his thoughts. Who did she think he was, really? He didn’t have any friends whose kids would know him and he purposely dressed not to be approachable by anyone, let alone random children on the streets. Black attire covered him entirely, a professional thermal jacket his one great expense coupled with cargo trousers, black military boots, worn thermal gloves and a neck-warmer which he, until buying his tea, had pulled up over his ears and mouth.

The bitter wind that funneled down through this street blew through both of them, messing with his short-cropped dark brown hair and teasing out strands of her straw-blonde from underneath her hat. She shuffled uncomfortably in the wind, clearly not getting the same protection from her zipped-up hoodie, blue jeans and sneakers. While /he’d/ trained himself not to be affected by the cold, he instinctively moved closer to the girl and blocked her from the gale. She seemed stumped by the question for a second, as if wondering why he would ask something so obvious, before replying.

“Well, you’re the assassin, right? Mr Wight? You better be, I’ve been looking for you all morning.”

Whatever answer he’d been expecting, it hadn’t been that. Instinctively Wight grabbed the girl’s shoulders, flipping her around and frog-marching her through the crowds of gift-shoppers before sitting her on a pile of snow shoved up against the wall of a brown-stone.

“Now why do you think that, little one?” he said with his own fake smile, squatting in front of her and carefully placing down his tea as he gave her his full attention.

“Well, I sure as hell hope you are, because if not you’d be the fourth person I’ve stopped that likes the tea that you do and I’m getting really tired of coming up with explanations.” Her words came out with a weariness of someone three times her age, and he blinked as she added “And don’t call me little.” Checking to make sure no one was watching, he sat back onto the floor in front of her and inspected her. With any luck, he’d look like a weary father attempting to reason with his daughter. And to be honest, he didn’t feel much different.

She couldn’t have been more than ten years old, but beyond the clothes she wore and the slight springiness to her body language he could easily have been speaking to a young adult. She sat, legs apart and elbows resting heavily on them, staring at him with a matched gaze, her chin in her hands as she scrunched up her face at him.

“How… How… my tea? Really?” was all he managed, genuinely stumped by this girl and her purpose in finding him. “Whatever you think I am, you’re wrong. You should go home before you get hurt.”

“See… I can’t,” she replied, shifting her weight with a sudden uneasiness that struck him, as little as she knew of her, as out of character.

“At least, not before you’re done.”

“No… No, no no, no no no.” Wight’s eyes widened and he shot up to standing, knocking over his tea and spilling it with a stifled curse.

“I’m not working for you, little girl, no way in hell. You need to get home, whatever’s happened I can’t help you.” His voice was as stern as he dared make it in her presence, her eyes glazing with moisture as she looked up at him, bottom lip beginning to tremble. “I’m sorry…” He trailed off, looking away from her quickly into the crowd and running his hands feverishly through his hair.

“Please…” she whispered, too quiet for Wight to hear fully.

“What?” he asked softly, turning back around.

“PLEASE!” with a sudden burst of emotion betraying her young age, she broke down into sobs, her face in her hands as warm salt water hit the icy street below her. “You’re all I’ve got left to fight with…” Her voice trailed as her crying became silent, her shoulders rocking up and down as she sat.

He looked at her, and sighed. For all of his talk of morals, for all he tried to stay impartial to the clients he brought on, this girl had to be different. He had to break his own rules. Watching her sob, truly broken and alone at the side of the street, that semblance of mature womanhood was gone. Whoever was at home for this little one, he thought, they had forced her to grow up far too young, but they could still reduce her to childish fear at the thought of them.

He couldn’t let that stand.

“You wanna go get some tea?” he asked, squatting back down in front of her and slowly prying her hands from her face, searching for eye contact. “I need to get another cup anyway, no thanks to you” he added with a wink, once he’d found her wet eyes with his own. Wiping them with his thumb, he stood up and held out his hand for her, motioning with his head for her to follow.

“You’ll help me?” she asked quietly, her mouth turning up at the corners slightly as she looked up to him.

“I’ll sure as hell try, little one.” he grinned, baring teeth and all.

She stood up and took his hand, kicking him in the shin as she shouted “Don’t call me little!”

They began to walk towards the tea shop, the crowds now a single mass flowing against them and these two souls tied together by a promise, a single purpose, like a boat sailing into the tide.

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