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A Story About Sami… “Screw It”
By Anita Wu
“No, no, no,” she shrieked when she woke up and felt the empty space under her pillow. She pulled aside her blanket, her pillow, and the bedding. The wooden floorboards stared at her, bare. Her mind whirled as she dashed to her bag of clothes next to her discarded sheets. It wasn’t there. She scanned the rest of the small room, empty aside from the other bed across from her. Where did it go?
“Sami, shut it, would you?” her roommate groaned from his bed. He pulled his blanket closer and closed his eyes further, curling his body as if it would get him away from her morning screams.
“Nothing,” she calmed her voice as her mind frantically thought of the possibilities. It was not anywhere she would normally stow it. It had to be stolen. It could not have just disappeared like that.
The door to their shared room swung open and slammed into the wall. Sami spied Orel as he passed, roughly opening the other doors as he sauntered down the hallway.
“Get to your stations. You especially, Sami. Misbehave again, and you’ll lose more than your stupid screwdriver,” he shouted. Her eyes narrowed, and she ground her teeth. She cursed herself for being a heavy sleeper. At least she knew who had it. She would get it back later.
For Kamal, she thought.
When she reached her cutting station in the kitchen, Zah elbowed her arm. She flashed a smile, charming as always with her brown hair tied into a ponytail, curly strands escaping its hold.
“Why so sullen, Sam? The day has just started,” she chirped as she quickly diced carrots without cutting her fingers.
“Orel stole my screwdriver,” she said quietly so the other apprentices in the kitchen wouldn’t hear. Zah’s hands stopped moving halfway through her carrot. Sami looked over to find Zah staring at her. Zah’s brown eyes had a mischievous glint to them. Her lips twitched at the grin she tried to hide. She looked back at her cutting board and continued dicing, the smile broad on her face.
“Then we steal it back,” she whispered. Sami found herself smiling too as she started cutting her own basket of vegetables for the soup this morning. Zah was most definitely Kamal’s younger sister. There was no denying that.
As her hands moved, Sami found her thoughts wandering to their conversation. She thought of where Orel would keep the screwdriver, how they would take it from him unnoticed, and when they would best execute their plan. It would be good practice. After all, they were thieves.
“The man won’t take the screwdriver with him to the bath,” Zah declared after swallowing a mouthful of rice. They sat cross-legged in Zah’s single room. Zah had an actual mattress in one corner, and a table and chair in another. A dresser that held her clothes adorned the third.
One of the higher ranked thieves doted on her, so she got the luxury of privacy despite being an apprentice. Even those who despised her for being Kamal’s blood did not touch her. Half the crew hated her for Kamal’s actions. He wasn’t here, so they directed their anger elsewhere. Sami wondered if she had to pay a price for the luxury, but she never dared to broach the topic.
“I wouldn’t put it past him, though,” Sami cautioned between bites of chicken. “The man does hate me.”
“Because you stole an extra yam here and there?” Zah scoffed. “He’s too petty. He doesn’t rank anywhere near the top to have privy to an extra snack anyways.”
She downed half the glass of water on the floor. “You let him boss you around too much, Sam.”
“What can I do? We’re just apprentices, and he is in charge of us.”
“That’s only what he wants you to think. Our crew is built upon power, Sam. If we prove that we can outsmart him, we’d stand higher than him. Screw apprentices.”
Zah took another bite of rice, and her eyes twinkled. “What if they even kick him out?”
Sami looked up at Zah as she quietly ate her food. Zah was a dreamer, even more so than Kamal. Her imagination was grander, her ideas wilder, her ambition unmatched. She even confided to her once that she wanted to leave this crew and go solo. She believed she could do much better than this three-story building with over thirty thieves. Sami didn’t doubt her. Her beauty would keep her near the riches, and her youthful face made her seem more innocent, more trustworthy.
Sami could not do it. A childhood of poverty before being found by this thieving crew had left her bony and gaunt. Stress lined her forehead, and sleepless nights marked her eyes. The crew was only slightly better — she had food every day at least. She didn’t have the charm to make people trust her like Zah did.
Zah picked up her cup and extended it to Sami, the rim tipped toward her. Her eyebrow arched up. Sami took her own cup and cheered with hers.
“To us,” she mimed.
Sami faked a stomachache during the last hour of training. She kept her head down and hugged her stomach as the instructor yelled at her in front of all the other apprentices. Each pair continued exchanging jabs with knives, but she knew they were all listening. She saw from the corner of her eye that her partner smirked at her. He struck out his tongue like a child, somehow proud that she was getting a scolding and not him.
“What are you doing standing there?” the instructor barked at her partner. “Join another pair. And you,” he turned to Sami again, “operations don’t pause when you have a stomachache. Get out of my sight.”
Sami staggered away from the yard and toward the rooms on the ground floor. She found Zah waiting for her in the shadows near the bathroom. As soon as she saw her, she signaled for Sami to follow. They sneaked their way past other thieves on their way to Orel’s room.
“He walked into the bathroom with a towel and change of clothes a couple minutes before you came,” Zah updated Sami as she picked the lock with some hairpins. “No screwdriver on his body.”
The lock clicked softly, and Zah opened the door just wide enough for them to slip in. Sami scanned the room, its layout like Zah’s but with a window next to the table. She immediately saw her screwdriver discarded on the floor next to a pile of clothes. She grabbed the translucent red handle and ran a finger down the grip, feeling for Kamal’s name. Sami smiled.
Zah returned a grin and nodded for them to leave. As soon as she turned, though, the door slammed open, and a large man filled its frame, his hair dripping wet, his face emotionless.
Orel’s eyes shifted between Sami and Zah, and his mouth twitched. His hand immediately reached for Zah’s neck as he dropped the clothes he was holding. He slammed her against the wall, her feet barely touching the ground.
“No!” Sami shouted, taking a step toward them.
“Stay the hell where you are,” Orel’s voice boomed as he glared at Sami, stopping her mid-stride. Her fear engulfed her, and she couldn’t move.
He turned to Zah, her hands grappling at his large one around her throat. Her mouth grimaced, and her eyes shone with pure malice.
“You were Yoren’s little toy, so we didn’t touch you. But you’ve gone too far this time.” He spat at her face and tightened his grip. Zah tilted her head higher and opened her mouth as she gasped for air. But she still didn’t give in. She swung her leg with as much force as she could muster, and she hit him between the legs.
The impact caused him to release Zah as he bent forward. Zah caught herself on the short fall and didn’t let the opportunity slip away. She grabbed Orel’s lowered head and kneed his face.
Sami found herself then, her grip on the screwdriver stronger. She exhaled and ran the two steps to Orel curled on the ground, his hands to his nose. He saw her above him and reached out with one of his fists.
“You little…” he hissed. Sami dodged his arm and brought the screwdriver down on his neck. She watched as his eyes went wide.
She felt Zah’s hand on her arm, pulling her away. Sami kept her hold on the bloodied screwdriver as she let Zah lead her to the window. They climbed the table and jumped out onto the paved sidewalk.
Zah ran, and Sami followed.
When they reached a park, Zah stopped and slumped down beside a tree. She was panting, but a smile was plastered on her face.
“What are we going to do now?” Sami asked between breaths. Zah looked up at her, a laugh escaping her throat. She stood up.
“First of all, my Sam, I am so proud of you.” Zah hugged her then, a tight, long embrace where Sami felt her heart beating against her chest. Sami didn’t know what overcame her when she struck Orel with the screwdriver. She just knew that she couldn’t stand there unmoving when Zah fought against him even in a hold. She didn’t know if her hit was fatal or not, but she didn’t really care.
When Zah let go, she held Sami by the shoulders and stared into her eyes. “And second, we do what I’ve always wanted to do. Let’s do our own thing, away from that wretched crew.”
“Maybe we’ll find my brother again,” Zah started sharing her dreams again, her ambitions, “when our names are well known. We’ll tell him how we left with a bang, far better than he had in the middle of the night. And maybe then, he’ll tell us why he gave you a screwdriver of all things.”
But Sami already knew the reason. Screw it, he had always said. She bet he never intended for her to take it literally.
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