Maran, a young woman in her late teens, stared at her plate of roast beef, potatoes, and carrots. Her gray eyes were avoiding the other two faces at the dining room table but it was difficult with her pulled back short brown hair to do anything that would hide her face. Not that she was one for supporting the hiding method. Nothing was ever solved that way. One of the inhabitants of the table was her younger sister, Kirsa. The fourteen year old girl with long brunette hair had been staying with their father for a few years, and had come back to her hometown of twenty-five thousand begrudgingly after being suspended from several schools in Marinette. The divorce had been hard on all of them, but so far the few months hadn't helped her at all. It would take time, Maran thought.
Their mother Joan was an impatient blond in her mid-forties suffering from a divorce that should've been for the best according to the lawyer. She hadn't been taking it well recently because the father dumped his daughter on her doorstep in order to pursue his own personal interests without the burden. This is the story Joan gave Maran when the news of being forced to take on another child she grudgingly took care of and treated like more like a burden than a daughter. "Even on academic probation we can't help you, Kirsa. Why do we have to go through with this every other week? You're hopeless."
Maran's eyes met those of her mother. Kirsa wasn't going to accept help from a mother who was there for her about as often as their father would be for Maran. They had to at least act as though they'd lived together at one point.
"Mom, no one can be perfect." Joan, looked at Maran in near contempt for talking back. The dinner table was often a battleground. They'd never had meals anywhere else, some were quiet and some weren't. Joan was a lawyer who cared too much for her job and her boss, Kirsa was always getting into brawls at school, and Maran was the solemn one.
"You have proved that enough, haven't you? I got a call from your principal earlier. You punched a boy in the hallway. Kovit Havelock." Maran had barely a bite of her food before she was sick to her stomach. Every night she ate here she felt a little more sick and wondered if her mother had put something in the food. She didn't believe her mother would do such a thing but the woman did regret many things in her life. Maran knew she was one of those things.
Kovit was a businessman with no calluses to pull him through the trouble he caused. She hit him because he tried to pay her off. Money meant very little to her and she ended up where she was because they wanted to prove her wrong.
Her father, Henry, was a good man, but it was right for he and Joan to get their divorce. He was in charge of a small publishing firm and valued good ideas. Joan was able to get custody of Maran and Henry was able to afford Kirsa for a few years. Kirsa had eventually gotten suspended in Marinette and was sent to live with Joan and Maran. Not too long after, she began to get into the same troubles as before. She unfortunately didn't like the idea of their parents splitting them up or separating in the first place. Her older sister understood perfectly, though.
It was better this way. However, Maran and Kirsa were constantly being judged on their performance since their father was no longer in the picture. While Kirsa was away, Maran hadn't seen her mother a lot; she was constantly working and made Maran make do with what she had. This grade issue was brought up every other week, if not more often. Her mother had turned into a bitter woman and Maran had tried to help Kirsa ignore everything, shut out the sounds coming out of Joan's mouth. It didn't work, so it resorted to defensive conversations.
"Lay off. This has gone on long enough. There are better ways to deal with--"
"Don't you lecture me, young lady. I can send you out of this house at any time and I can send Kirsa into the foster program as well." Kirsa hadn't looked up from her plate yet. She was rigid.
"You won't do it because you promised dad. Nothing that goes on inside this house is making the situation any better. You've been fighting it since he came back "
The dishes were done in silence. Maran washed while Kirsa dried, their routine never really changing. Joan was in the den already, working on documents the firm had faxed to her. She was always in that room, distracting her from the life she forgot she had with her family which was part of the reason for the divorce. Kirsa was on edge. Even now after the two months she'd been here she didn't feel comfortable in the house. She'll get over it, Maran thought as she handed her sister another plate.
Kirsa hadn't asked yet about the scar on the top of her hand or the one on her cheek. It was the only consensus Maran and her mother had ever come to in the few years they'd been living alone. The one on her cheek led to the one on her hand. Her father never knew, he was never around. When he dropped Kirsa off he spared her the rarest of glances. Sometimes it hurt knowing his was the face she saw when she looked in the mirror.
And it was because of the truce she and her mother had that no one was aware of the past few years. No one was supposed to know that the scar on her face was a cut from a fight or the one on her hand was from boiling water being poured over her knuckles. The scar she hid underneath her tee-shirt, large and reminiscent of a past, hadn't seen the light of day since she'd actually gotten it. Gangs weren't keen on helping those whose family name wasn't on the roster.
When Kirsa was in her room and blaring her music Maran began to make her way up the stairs. Good thing I decided not to continue on that path, she thought as a knock came from the front porch. The pattern of raps was familiar but with the way things had been lately she was a little surprised. This does not bode well, she thought. She turned to answer the door, prepared for almost anything. The worst was a visit from the gang that gave her the scar on her cheek and hand.
There stood a man she didn't want to see around her family despite the differences. They were incomplete but still related. She was half tempted to slam the door in his face. She hated being right. With ebony skin, a few inches on her height, and a large jogging suit, Malice of the Fang clan was here with intent to harm. Granted he had an intimidating look on his face, but she wasn't convinced that he was the most dangerous person on the porch at the moment. She knew a well-placed jab to his left temple was entirely possible, and knew he'd fail to dodge without pulling out his weapon of choice, a sharpened ring which acted as a incisor. It was a deadly weapon but not so deadly as some of the other knives in the world. She'd been cut on the face with one, but she was worried more of the one in the small box in her own room.
"You exited the ring too early, Yoru. There are things you can't walk away from so easily." She shut the door behind her, and nobody would be getting through the door if she had anything to say about it. Looking away to gather her senses, she noted no other men or women in her eyesight. She kept her hand on the doorknob just in case.
"I don't know who you're talking about." Her eyes came up to meet his. "You obviously have the wrong house."
"Once a Claw, always a Claw. Gang members can't quit so easily." A short white boy around her age was standing at the base of the porch stairs with his right eye missing. His name was Crow and he was Malice's sideman. There was a fight he started with Maran a year or two ago when she proved that he was below her. Crow, though quick on his feet, had not been able to hold her arm back well enough before she pushed past his defenses and made the final blow that would win her the fight. Crow was difficult, though, sporadic in his fighting techniques; she blamed his obsession with action movies.
It was her fault that she let Kovit get on her bad side--she should've never broken his nose. She knew she was going to regret it later. What if he planned on this? Maran did nothing but stay quiet to collect her thoughts.
"And she has no idea what to do. She must be scared shitless." Crow was a little wary, though. Maran tightened her fists.
"This look isn't fear." Malice looked back to his friend then back to Maran before she threw her fist into his face. She had been quiet. Her hand grabbed his dark locks and threw her knee upwards to break his nose. Satisfied with the crack she heard, she tossed Malice aside and stepped back when Crow landed a punch to her collarbone. After a quick recovery she landed a kick to his gut and a fist to his neck. She'd forgotten she could do that. Walking over to Malice and landing a hit to his temple, she lifted him so her voice was low and understood.
"I have no qualms with you. Havelock paid you off to get to me because he wasn't strong enough to take me. If there were any doubts about my abilities they have been laid to rest. You, however, have been slacking off, Malice, and if you come near me or my family I will not hesitate to make your miserable life worse. It'll be hard to be malicious if you're dead."
"The debt hasn't been settled." His hand came up and the fang dug into her arm. A trail of blood ran down onto his shirt and
"Tell him to take care of his own dirty work."
Nix that, she thought. He planned on getting on my bad side. However, his broken nose probably wasn't planned for at all.
"I think not." Maran saw the finger ring that extended along the man's right hand. The ring symbolized a gang, the Fang. They were hard to get along with. Their leader, Malice, lived to fight, as did the rest of the Fang, but he toyed with his victims every once in awhile.
This was Malice. "We were given the right address and the right name." Maran could only glare at him. "Don't play dumb with me, Yoru. My employer was very irritated with your actions."
"That person doesn't live here. I'm sorry to disappoint you." Malice reached up to grab her shirt, and her hands came up, grabbing his limb and efficiently twisting it behind him. She pushed him away from her with unseen strength. "Leave now."
"Or you'll do what? There is a debt that needs to be settled and I won't leave until it is."
"It will never be resolved, Malice. Why take money from Florian in the first place?"
"Because he's paying in advance. That and there have always been loose ends between our people." Maran clenched her fist at her side. She was getting agitated, and when that happened there was usually an electric shock of a reaction. The thirst to strike out was becoming a bit stronger since she had taken liberties with Havelock's nose, and her fingers tingled with anticipation.
"I don't have people."
"Once a Claw, always a Claw. That scar on your hand would be the proof." She grabbed his throat quickly and tightened her grasp on his esophagus. She maneuvered him into the brick column of the porch and gripped his neck tighter. "You can't just stop being a gang member."
"Stay away from me and my family. It'll be hard to be malicious if you're dead."
"The debt hasn't been settled."
"Tell Florian to take care of his own dirty work." Malice grabbed the hand at his neck and made a deep cut in it with the metal ring on his finger. A steady stream of blood ran down her wrist and trickled down her arm. Maran let him go when her arm began dripping onto the floor as the blood. He watched as she bled, her face empty of emotion.
"More." It was a game that had been played between certain gangs, the blood-letting. They sent the leader or second-in-command to get proof that a debt of some sort had been settled and the incident would be over. She made enemies easily, though, and they held grudges for years.
"There's a time and place for everything; you'll get your chance I'm sure. Now if you'll excuse me I have schoolwork to do." She opened the door behind her and entered the house, leaving Malice on the porch. He stood there, infuriated, but walked away with his nerves shot. She hadn't lost her aggressiveness.
Maran leaned up against the door in shock and covered her arm with her shirt, tightening the material to cut off the circulation. Malice showing up on her doorstep, paid off by her worst enemy, was not a good sign of things to come. It meant trouble, meant that she might get forced into a very disturbing position to fight against her will. She gave up on her arm and ran her good hand through her hair; she started up to her room, feeling a bit dizzy.
"Maran, who was it?" It was her mother. Maran hid her arm behind her back and tried to stop a small trickle of blood from pooling onto the carpet.
"Prank kid, don't know," she lied. When Joan entered the room to face her, Maran hid behind a passive face and a darkened foyer. Joan had seen the face before, but would probably rack her brain for the significance of the look. If the light was turned on she'd see the blood. Maran was good at hiding, and she walked up the stairs, disappearing into her bedroom. Her mother, apparently satisfied with the explanation provided, promptly went back to the den to continue working. A trust had been established over the years that they wouldn't ask too many questions or demand the answers no one would give.
After shutting the door to her room Maran walked over to her mirror. Her shirt had taken in the blood and she shed it off, walking over to her small bathroom and drawing some cold water in the sink. Her mother never snooped because she trusted her daughter not to get into anymore trouble. Maran took one look in the mirror and glanced at another scar on her stomach which spread for about twelve inches. Looking away she tended to more important things. Plugging the sink she drenched the shirt and left it to soak. She opened her drawer and found her band-aids, but looked down at her soaked shirt and pushed past the bandages to reach further back; she placed a large gauze bandage on the sink. Grabbing her washcloth and placing it next to the sink, she grabbed the peroxide.
Turning to lean over the shower, she doused her wound with the peroxide and waited patiently for the fizzing sound. The wound stung and bubbled up. The pain increased; she clenched her teeth. It had been a while since she had to do this, and she knew it wouldn't be the last time. But she would be damned if she let Malice get a hold of her again. Though she didn't fear him, the mere thought of having to go up against the whole gang unnerved her. She suppressed the urge to punch the wall and waited for the pain to go down; it was her first deep wound in a long time and she doused it again.
The sting came and went once again. She dampened the washcloth, cleaning the blood from her arm before taping the bandage there for the night. Over the years she had to learn to hide these things from her mother and tend to her own wounds before anyone realized she was injured; it didn't stop her. The one time she was slowed down, she was hospitalized by her best friend after a spar, but that was different.
Walking back into her room she reached her bureau and pulled out an extra large shirt, pulling it over her front. It was true that she didn't have much up front, but she had always thought it to be a gift so no man could hit her there and make it sting before she got her turn. She turned on the bed stand light and opened one of her other drawers which revealed a plain, black box about the size of a large fist. She paused there for a minute, just thinking about the past. A memory came to her for what seemed like the thousandth time, a harsh memory.
The gang wars and the ones who lead made the most trouble. She herself was involved more than willingly; she was one of the best. The rules were created due to Maran's fighting ethics, in which others adopted them as well. And everyone adopted the rules for a time.
It was in middle school that Florian Havelock had pushed her into a fighting ring. This was during the summer before she became a seventh grader. When she had stumbled into the fighter's ring, she had seized roughly and given a beating she would never forget by the once leader of the Fang, JJ.
He had given her one of the two scars she'd adorned. She was approached by a boy who wore a red bandana around his dark, bald head. He was there with an offer that would change her life. She was given the chance to learn to defend herself and quit when she felt satisfied with her techniques. She of course accepted and had to go through the initiation. It involved hot metal and the hand of her choice; she chose her left. The metal was molded over her exposed hand, and the initiation was complete when the weapon was made. Many questioned why she used her left hand. She could injure someone with her left and punch another with her right.
Composed and shaped of hot metal and human tools, the Claw was considered one of the most deadly weapons of the gang world. It took the form of brass knuckles, but on top of the metal was a solitary blade, curved towards the fingers like a small dagger sharpened to perfection. What better way to perfect it though, but to put it into the hands of a perfect warrior; they put it in hers.
Maran opened the box and gazed again on the beauty of the abandoned weapon. She had quit at the end of her sophomore year, four years of fighting as hard as she could. What had happened? She forgot why she fought when she struck a seventh grader so hard that he had been hospitalized; he wasn't guilty of any crime. She finally understood her flaw, what it felt like to be dangerous. Afterwards she went to visit the parents of the boy to apologize and they pressed charges; she accepted the punishment. She vowed never to fight again.
She hadn't fought for close to two years, and she wasn't eager to start up again, especially if it involved the Claw and the Fang. If Florian is planning something, I have to be prepared, and if that means fighting back, she thought as she picked up the claw made for her and slipped her fingers into the holes, then I have no choice but to defend myself. I screwed everything up in one moment of emotion and now I have to face my demons.
Maran stared at the ceiling and closed her eyes. The Sun would rise again.