The city of Newgrey was brimming with crime and with criminals. The factors that led to such a problem were nearly innumerable. Aside from the police's lack of caring, the city was hopelessly bankrupt, and it only got worse by the day. The crime and pollution and lack of things to do in the over-urbanized town scared away tourists, and with them went their money. There was an, uh, interesting club scene (to say the least) but that was really the only thing the city held for anyone disinterested in illicit activities.
But that was fine. Most people in Newgrey were very interested in such things—hence the crime rate. They loved the idea of being notorious, feared, particularly the youth. The number of homeless teenagers within the city limits was only slightly less than the number of teenagers with "normal families" and "legal addresses" and "futures." The sad excuses for parents in the city would abandon their kids over just about anything, toss them out on their ass the second they could fend for themselves. The usual age was eight or nine, and it was a fight for those kids to survive. You didn't know crime then. You just didn't. You couldn't kill a man at eight years old for a shiny new watch to pawn. You couldn't shoplift a week's worth of groceries.
But if they liked you—the big names, the older kids, the ones with lackeys—they would take you in and teach you. You would learn to kill for watches and other things you liked. You would learn to take your keep by force and stealth rather than earn it with hard, honest labor. You would learn to selfishly want and you would be taught how to make what you wanted yours. At eight or nine years old, you would become a thief, a murderer, a cold-blooded shell with no humanity to be found in any corner, crevice, or crack. You would be turned into one of us and survive, and just as all the others, you would grow to adore it. The adrenaline is what gets you.
It got me when I was six. I ran away from my abusive parents when I turned five, and this guy who had been in the mob for decades before retiring to a life of informing on his former family to the cops for the bribe money took me in. He tried hard to protect me, his fiorire, from Newgrey's crime-infested nature. He was my babbo then, and I wore pretty dresses and silk bows and spoke properly and used my manners. But then I got ahold of the matchbox in the kitchen, and upon finding out what matches were for and what they did, I disappeared for a couple hours. I came back with soot on my face and slightly burnt hands. I grinned happily up at my babbo and told him he was my only babbo now. The other babbo, the bad babbo, was gone forever.
I had burned down my real parents' house while they slept.
My babbo looked at me every day after that with a mixture of fear and pride in his eyes. He knew I had crime in my heart, just as he did. He knew I was made for the streets. He was proud of me for that, saw me even more as his own daughter. But he knew that I would one day get better than he was, and either leave or bring him down somehow. And he was scared of that.
He trained me anyway. Lock-picking, pick-pocketing, fighting—armed and unarmed—to win, assassination, espionage, covering your tracks in all sorts of crimes, all the tools of the trade. There was always a shadow of doubt visible in him; not for my ability to exceed, which was unquestionable, but for my loyalty to him. He didn't know what would come back to haunt him, what could be his demise. He didn't trust me. But he loved me.
When I was thirteen, he brought in an old friend of his from the mafia. She was once the wife of a don, a major crime lord in Newgrey until she stabbed him in his neck and took over herself. Her reign was short-lived, only because she liked the thought of retiring in Bogota better than "leading a crew of sick little coglioni all across a dirty rat-hole like Newgrey," as she put it. Her name was Velia, which she told me meant concealed. I told her that that may be what it meant on paper, but on her it meant anything but. It would be a cold day in Hell before one could go a day without seeing the woman's nipples at the very least. Although I guess that was what made babbo pick her for the job. Velia trained me in the ways of the femme fatale: how to trick men into thinking they're in love or that they're getting some and make off with anything from their wallet to their life, with just a little bit of exposed skin in all the right places. Once I had mastered the skill to the point that I got my middle-aged, male, married tutor to let me take his shiny expensive sports car out for a spin (and total it), Velia left. "My work is done here," she said, "and I ain't spendin' another second around your little diavolo, Atillio. She gives me chills. I'm outta here."
By the time I was fifteen, I had learned more or less everything there was to learn. And I had practice. I had been hanging out with the kids that loitered outside the liquor stores, vandalizing, stealing shit, burning whatever was flammable. I didn't wear pretty dresses and silk bows anymore; I wore low-cut shirts and leather. I didn't speak properly; I used every swear word I knew and a lot that I didn't. I didn't use my manners; I used my matches and my fists and handguns I lifted off Atillio's guards. I wasn't fiorire; I was Match Girl. He wasn't my babbo; he was just there. I packed a bag, took some cash (some meaning a little over a hundred grand), took some guns and some matches and some random valuables, and left a couple dead bodies and a note in my wake. And I left.
The note read:
Sapevi che questo giorno sarebbe arrivato.
La piccola fiammiferaia
Since then, I've lived on the streets of Newgrey.
This is part one of a rewrite of the fairy tale The Little Match Girl that I wrote last year for a class. The challenge was to put a whole new spin on the fairy tale without turning it into something completely new and different. I chose to do a gritty reboot. Thus, the pyromaniacal, professionally trained criminal orphan once raised by a retired mobster that is the focus of this story came into existence.
Part two should be up sometime soon. Soon meaning within the next few months, if I don't forget completely and go running off in some other unknown direction to do who knows what. Reviews are greatly appreciated and keep me on track with projects/more likely to ever finish part two.
Please note that I am not Italian, I do not know anyone who is Italian or who speaks Italian, and as such, some of my Italian is, unavoidably, going to be wrong. Very, very wrong. I tried, and I put down whatever the internet would give me, but I would have no problem if someone were to politely and without hostility point out any mistakes made and tell me what to put there instead.