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Obedience

Cane Crackin'

“Hmmph…”

I duck my head, closing my eyes, as Dulce, the seventeen year old tyrant, marches back and forth across the room – well, as much as she can with the wooden stick she uses as a cane. The perfect example of what happens when someone too young is in charge. Cheer boot camp, just with life-threatening consequences if you crossed her.

“You-“

She stops in front of me, predictably. I’m always the one she stops in front of. She thinks she can tell me what to do, but she has no control over me. She might be able to make the younger ones cower in fear, but me – I’m not stupid. I chewed girls like her up for breakfast and spit them out on the sidewalk when I was her age.

“You told them she was here.”

Dulce’s cane points towards the corner. Green eyes pierce mine, while the rest of her face forms a glare as soon as she swings her glance back to Dulce. Her arms are already bruise-swollen, and tiny dribbles of blood cut her chin awkwardly in half. Dulce was responsible for the lip, no doubt. But the bruises – they had to be Carlos. Bruises like that weren’t her style.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

That’s a lie. Of course I know. Kid like that shouldn’t be here. So, yeah, I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure she gets home. Anything’s got to be better than this.

“Don’t lie to me.”

The cane slams into my shin. I grimace, but nothing else. I can’t give Dulce that satisfaction.

“Why would I lie to you?”

“They came here today looking for her.” She ignores what I said. Another blow. Same shin. Yeah, she’s dumb.

Then, suddenly, she twirls in a motion she should never have been capable of, and pops the kid with the cane across the mouth. Maybe she’s not so dumb as I thought.

“Every time you lie to me, every time you disobey me, I hit you both.” The cane is waving in my face. “So what is it going to be, Angelita? Lies, or the truth? Did you call her family?”

Dulce might not be dumb, but she’s not very smart. Even though I have to admire her just a little bit for her ingenuity in this circumstance, I will not be swayed. Not this time.

“No.”

The cane lowers quickly, rams into my gut. I fight to stay on my feet as Dulce hits the kid again, then stalks out of the room.

“You have one hour to get your story straight,” she yells over her shoulder. “Use it.”

As soon as the door slams shut, I slither to the ground, groping for the wall. Blue eyes watch my every move, but she does nothing else. What can she do? She’s probably got broken ribs up there in her corner.

“You need to tell the truth,” a small, sweet voice glides from across the room.

I look over, but say nothing. What does she know? She’s only been here a few days. Better someone figure out a way for her to get out now than wait a week. Even if it means disobeying orders from ‘La Chica Loca.’

“It doesn’t help you.” She goes on. “It’s not like they’re beating you because they can. It’s because you disobeyed them.”

“What about you?” I can’t help asking. “You don’t deserve this. You didn’t do anything.”

“It doesn’t matter about me. What matters is you. You need to tell them the truth. And always tell the truth. Lying doesn’t save anyone.”

“Whatever.” I snort, shake my head, and turn away. What does she know? She’s just a kid. Probably never got in trouble before this. The only way to save yourself around here is to lie. To disobey, as much as possible. That way, maybe someone else will start to realize. And another. And another, until one day we all can put a stop to it.

“Fine.” She sighs. “But I don’t want you doing it for me.”

“Sure.” I imagine the cane again, this time crashing down on her skull. But that isn’t going to happen. Not yet. “Whatever you say.”

Oddly, the image is calming. I curl up tightly in a ball, and wait for Dulce to come back. Okay, so I will tell the truth. If the kid doesn’t want me to save her, then she deserves whatever she gets. Something like a crack on the head.

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