Four days passed, and that tightness was like that itch you can’t reach. My eyes were puffy, and my mouth was dry. No matter how much I drank, these feelings didn’t leave me. My sleep was restless, with plenty of tossing and turning.

At Kratos and Mom’s insistence, I took a nap one afternoon. A knock at my bedroom door woke me up. “Lady Nike, I am sorry to disturb you,” Francisco said.

“What is it? Is something wrong?”

“There is a person at the desk for you, and you always said to find you if someone ever asked for you.”

“Yes, yes,” I said groggily. 

Francisco opened the door, walked over to my bed, and handed me a warm washcloth. “Here, this should help.”

“Thank you.” I took it from him and wiped my face. Then I grabbed my phone and called down to the security desk.

“Yes, Lady Nike?” the guard who answered the phone said.

“I was informed there is someone in the lobby for me.”

“Yes, ma’am. She asked for you by name, but she looks like a homeless person. Probably just looking for a handout. I can send her away if you like.”

“What does she look like?”

“She has long black hair and green eyes, although one eye is black, like she’s been in a fight.”

“Does she have a tattoo?”

“I think so, on her wrist.”

I turned to Francisco. “Go downstairs, get that girl, and bring her up here.” He nodded and rushed off. “Don’t let her leave,” I told the guard.

“As you wish, m’lady.”

I rolled my eyes as I hung up. I hated when they called me that. They continued to do so, no matter how many times I told them just Nike. I got up, straining to stand as the tightness remained with me.  

I sluggishly made my way to the sofa, pulling myself into a ball and wrapping the blanket over myself. I must look a sight. What was wrong with me

I heard the elevator door open, and then Francisco talking. “This way, miss. You will find m’lady in there.” 

The tightness got lighter as soon as she walked into the room. “Hello, Cara. So nice to see you again.”

“Holy f—” Francisco let out a cough to cover Cara’s word. “Wait, are you some kind of queen or something?”

I giggled. “No, that is my mother.”

“So you’re a princess?”

“Some of my family have accused me of being such, but I am not.”

“Then why do they keep calling you my lady?” Francisco nudged her to move further into the living room. “Hey, dude, quit pushing me.” 

I shook my head at Francisco. He bowed his head and left.

Cara gazed around the room, and I motioned for her to take a seat. I could feel my pain lifting. “Holy f..oh sorry.” She lowered her head as she came to sit down. “Jesus, Mary, and Thomas, are you…?”

I glanced over at her to hear her question. I had an idea what it was, but waiting to hear her ask it.

“Are you someone important or something?”

Or something you might say.”

Francisco brought me a cup of Yorkshire Noir tea and asked Cara if she wanted anything. She shook her head, never taking her eyes off of me.

I noticed the bruising the guard had mentioned. “Cara, what brought you here today? What happened to your eye?” 

“Oh, it’s nothing. I’ve had worse.” She tried to shrug it off.

Francisco brought her an ice pack before I asked him to. “How?”

“I came here cause you said that if ever I needed help, I could contact you.” She was clearly trying to change the subject.

“How can I help?” My chest swelled, and the pain left. This must be what I needed to do for her.

“Listen, I got fired that day.”

“Oh, I’m sorry about that. Is that how you got your black eye?”

“No, I got that in a fight.”

“A fight?”

“Yes, I…I…” she hesitated, “I had to go back to street fighting.”

“Street fighting? I thought they outlawed that.”

“Yes, they are illegal. My brother made me do it. He said I am his best fighter.”

“Do you like doing this?”

“No fucking way, man. Oh, sorry.” I smiled at her. “Lady Nike—”

“Just Nike.” 

“Nike, ladyship—”

I giggled out loud at that.

“Forgive my manners. I mean you no disrespect. It’s just that I’m trying to get through college, and I was working to help my mom and my younger siblings. Aramis is no help. And losing my job definitely hurt. I ain’t lookin for no’s just cause you offered….and…” She lowered her head.

“Cara, it’s all right.” I scooted closer to her, placing my hand on her knee. The flash of victory images flashed the end results before me. I pulled my hand away. That had never happened to me before.

Cara wiped her face as a tear had escaped. “I’m sorry.” She bit her lip and looked up at me.

“Cara, it is not a problem for me.”

Francisco came over with a tissue box and offered it to Cara.

“Thank you. How is it you know what I need?” 

Francisco just smiled and returned to the kitchen. 

“Cara, I think I can help you with a job if that is what you need.” She lifted her head. “I am the manager of the Dark Sparks down the street.”

“What? You have to work?”

Laughing, I said, “Yes, we all work.”

“But aren’t you—”

“To some. My father has decreed that we all get jobs and mingle with the people.”

“Well, that wasn’t what I expected.”

“No one did. Not even us.” Giggling at that, I stood up and went to get my phone off the table. “Would you like to start today?” I asked.

“Today? I…I need to clean up first,” she said, looking down at her clothes. 

“Very well, meet me at Dark Sparks on Olympus Blvd tomorrow, and we can get you started.”

“Really? Like, really? You will give me a job just like that? You don’t even know me.”

“I know that you are kind, honest, you have courage, and you aren’t afraid to ask for help when you need it. You are trustworthy, too.”

“Man, you are not what I expected at all.” 

“What did you expect?”

“I thought you were pulling my leg about living here. I had no idea you were a god.”

“Goddess,” Francisco corrected her from the doorway.

Her eyes widened further. 

“Don’t worry, Cara. I’m one of the good ones. Or I mean nice ones,” I replied, giggling as the phone rang. “Carl, it’s Nike. I just hired our new assistant manager. She’ll be starting this week, okay?”

“Sure thing, Nike,” he said.

Cara just sat there stunned. I smiled at her. “Was there anything else I could do for you?” I asked as I hung up the phone.

“No, that is all I needed,” she said as she stood up. 

I crossed over to her and extended my hand. “Welcome aboard, Cara.”

Nike (Nikki Crump-Hansted)
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