I groggily opened my eyes, my head heavy with sleep. I lay in bed for a moment, trying to shake off the remnants of my dream. Then, the battered alarm blared, jolting me fully awake. I reached over to my worn nightstand and tapped the snooze button, rubbing my eyes and letting out a sigh. It's time to start another day.
“NIAMH!! You have about 5 minutes to get up here and get to work!!!”
“...Sigh..” An exasperation couldn't help but escape from my mouth. With thoughts of the alarm I had just stopped short, I wonder if it truly had a point.
Putting my meaningless thoughts to the side, I stood up to get dressed. I quickly slipped into my work uniform, a stained white shirt and black pants. I grabbed my bag and headed upstairs. My boss, a grumpy old man, met me with a scowl as I entered the bar.
"About time you showed up," he grumbled. "You must not want to work being a minute late. Seems I'll need to take that out of your paycheck."
I stared into his eyes that gleamed with sadistic satisfaction. I lowered my head soon after and walked to the small closet adjacent to the stairs that led to my “room”.
I couldn't help but feel a sense of dread wash over me. This was my life, day in and day out. I worked long hours at the bar, barely making enough money to survive. My boss always found something to critique me on, never satisfied with my work and constantly threatening to dock my pay. But I had no choice, I had to keep working here to have a roof over my head.
I took a deep breath and grabbed my broom, ready to start another grueling shift. The customers were already pouring in, and I could feel my back starting to ache from cleaning all day. But I pushed through it, knowing that I had to keep going if I wanted to survive.
I glanced outside the window, watching the people on the street pass by the rundown bar. They wore clothes that fit them just right, clean and crisp without any holes besides those that were necessary. I saw a family of four: a mother, father, and two identical girls. They all had smiles on their faces, happy spending time with each other. I felt jealous of their happiness, I felt empty at my lack of happiness.
It was then that I saw a black butterfly glide past the window in front of me. Upon seeing it I couldn't help but be reminded of the black haired beauty I had seen in my dream last night. Shortly after, an expensive limousine drove past the bar. For some reason I couldn't turn my head away from it, thinking even deeper about the butterfly fairy of my dream. 'Dream of the Red Chamber' crossed my thoughts, but disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
“Niamh, can you afford to waste time or do you want to be on the streets?” Scowled the old man who held my life by chains.
“Gerald, give the kid a break. She's been working as long as I've been drinking,” chuckled the regular that always stood up for me.
He was one of the only people in this bar that didn’t drown themselves in alcohol. This man's behavior was quite unusual in a bar like this, where drinking was the norm. Most people came to these places to let loose and have a good time, but this man seemed to be there for a different reason. He was not trying to escape from reality, nor was he trying to numb himself with alcohol. He was simply enjoying the atmosphere and taking in the moment. I couldn’t help but respect him for being able to stomach this kind of environment. Just having to clean this place makes me sick to my gut.
Not wanting to think about it any further, I bowed my head in thanks and continued to sweep the dilapidated floor. This went on until the old man called me to the kitchen. As it were, he had dropped an egg and wanted me to clean it up. You would think that after living so long he’d be kind enough to clean up his own mistake. You’d be very wrong. I sighed and put down my broom, making my way to the kitchen. The old man was sitting at the kitchen table, his arms crossed in front of him, tapping his foot impatiently. He handed me a cloth and gestured towards the broken egg on the floor. I got down on my hands and knees, silently cursing the old man for making me do this task.
I thought about all the other tasks he had asked me to do, like doing his grocery shopping, fixing his car, and even painting his house(which looks like that of a mansion despite him running a dirty, dilapidated bar). All of these tasks were his own responsibilities, but he had delegated them to me. He never once thanked me or showed any appreciation for my help. Any amount of resistance and my pay will be reduced. I had no option but to suffer through it and clean. Such was my fate...
As the night went on, I found myself becoming more and more exhausted. I could feel my mind starting to wander, thinking about all the things I could be doing with my life instead of working in this dead-end job. But I knew that it was just a pipe dream, I was stuck here for the foreseeable future.
Or so I thought…
“Gerald, I thought I warned you properly.” A strong, deep voice sounded through the door, overpowering the small bell behind it. “The supply you so graciously stole. I want it back.”
Gerald nervously shifted on his feet, his heart pounding in his chest. He knew he was in trouble and he needed to think fast.
"I-I'm sorry, I didn't know it was yours," he stammered. "I thought it was just surplus supplies that nobody needed anymore."
The voice behind the door wasn't buying it. "You knew exactly what you were doing. And now you're going to pay for it."
Gerald swallowed hard, trying to think of a way out of this situation. "Please, I'll give it back. Just don't hurt me."
There was a pause, and the voice spoke again. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood today, Gerald. I'll give you a chance to make this right. That of course being with your life…
I couldn’t understand what was happening. From the sudden arrival of this mob boss to the hundreds of people approaching the bar armed.
HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE ARMED!!!
I leap onto the ground in a hurry. Loud bangs followed soon after. I could hear the sound of shattering glass and the screams of people running for their lives. I crawled on my belly towards the back exit of the bar, trying to stay low and avoid the chaos.
"Gerald, don't you dare try to run!" The voice roared. "You have ten seconds to give me what I want!"
My elbows were covered in blood. Glass perforating my skin causing me to be unable to crawl any further.
"Eight, nine, ten!" The voice counted down.
To my relief, the shooting stopped. Gerald had stepped forward with some kind of package covered with blood. It was as clear as day where the blood came from. Gerald dropped to his knees prostrating himself before the towering boss. His face contorted with anger. "Get the package," he growled, “the Young Miss has already waited too long.”
The man then reached into his dark suit’s inner pocket and pulled out an aged gun that seemed to have been used a lot. Pointed it at the scarlet faced Gerald and boom. A thud came soon after the deafening shot.
All I could do was lay there, ears ringing and heart racing, as I realized the reality of the situation. I was trapped in the middle of a violent crime scene, with no way out and nowhere to hide. I was in deep trouble and I knew it. I closed my eyes, trying to calm my breathing, and braced myself for the worst. Just then, I heard footsteps approaching, and I knew that my fate was about to be sealed.
“ Sir, it seems like one of them is still alive. What do you want me to do with her?”
My heart leaped.
“Just put her out of my misery”, commanded the thumping voice.
‘WHAT MISERY’, I thought to myself.
Suddenly a familiar calm, alluring voice resounded throughout the bar.
“Just knock her unconscious. She may be of some use later.”
““Yes, Young Miss””
But fate was cruel, and the butterfly's wings,
Were too weak to carry it through the storms that bring,
It struggled to fly, but the winds were too strong,
And it fell to the ground, where it lay all alone.
The butterfly's dreams were shattered,
As it lay dying, cold and battered,
It thought of the warmth of summer days,
And the love it had left behind in its ways.