She buried her face in the supple, dark leather of his jacket, into the hard, tensed muscles of his shoulders and back. She clung to him, arms wrapped around his waist, perhaps a little more tightly than necessary. The wind sent her long, straight hair streaming behind her like a million platinum ribbons as the two of them sped through the deserted streets of Lowtown.
'Deserted' was relative, in this case. Lowtown was never truly deserted, but at 5 a.m. only the beggars and junkies were left wandering the streets, idly searching for something they wouldn't find. The loud, steady droning of the bike's engine drowned out their weak pleas. And In all their wretchedness, she loved them. She loved them because they were honest and unabashed, no pretense about them. The people Uptown, across The Wall, were exactly the same - constantly looking for a handout, a fix, but they hid behind artificially whitened smiles and expensive Italian suits, and it was suddenly respectable, upstanding.
He turned the bike hard and they banked right, their knees inches from the rough, unyielding street. The Wall loomed ahead, closer and taller now. The sun was starting to rise, and its light turned the clouds of chemicals and smog overhead a magnificent array of colors - purple, pink, gold, even green - so bright and vivid they briefly outshone the billboards and blinking neon signs.
And that was Lowtown. So many terrible things, dangerous, even deadly things, and if you looked at them at just right the time or just the right way, they were beautiful.
She knew her little 'excursions' into Lowtown had, at some point, stopped being about rebellious adventure, about pissing off her father. She didn't belong in Lowtown, but she didn't want to belong across The Wall either, with 'friends' and a 'family' so self-absorbed, so over-medicated that they couldn't see (and didn't care about) the big picture. They couldn't even see past their own noses, so carefully, perfectly sculpted by plastic surgeons.
She realized the motorcycle was decelerating, as a familiar expanse of twenty foot wall covered in coarse graffiti - Uptown slurs, mostly - was sliding into view. This part of The Wall faced a small alley and battered buildings, far away from the Gates and their armed guards, and, at this early hour, far away from the eyes of Lowtown.
He brought the bike to a stop below the little section of The Wall with the grooves and loose bricks she had discovered. Simple enough to climb, to pull herself up and over into the obsessively cleaned, emotionless streets Uptown. Would the day come when she wouldn't go back? When her father found out and she couldn't go back? The thought scared her and thrilled her at the same time.
She got off the bike, somewhat reluctantly, stretching her legs and trying to smooth her windswept hair with her fingers. He straddled the bike, frankensteined together out of junkyard parts, its engine still idling. A misshapen, ugly looking thing that he had proudly assembled with his own two hands - so perfectly Lowtown. She looked forward to riding it again.
Instead of a helmet, he wore a grey baseball cap (she had never seen him without it), its logo long since faded and fallen off. When she had asked him about a helmet, the first time he had driven her 'home,' he had only smiled wryly and said I don't crash. An arrogant statement, for sure, and it was far from his first or last.
"Is it really so easy?" he asked, gazing up at the wall. The bill of the hat made it hard to see his eyes, but his mouth had an amused turn to it. It always did. She found it incredibly irritating. The prismatic colors of sunrise threw his features into soft, hazy relief. It made his lips look soft, and she found this even more irritating than that permanent half-smile.
"It's easy enough to get to the other side, sure." she said sharply, with a lecturing air. She had no doubt he was contemplating such a trip himself, and this was the one time where she could do something he couldn't. Where she had him beat. "You don't get too far in before they card you, though. And even if your ID says you belong there, they still get pretty suspicious about people hanging out near The Wall, probably take you in for questioning." He looked a little confused now, but still smiling. That god damn smile. "Unless, of course, you happen to be the daughter of someone very important." She flashed her best smile now, knowing her teeth were perfectly straight, blindingly white. His teeth weren't bad, for Lowtown, but she had him beat there too.
"Well then, Princess." his voice was dripping with sarcasm, he affected a bow, and she felt her hand instinctively clench into a fist. Busting her ride's stupid, soft-looking lips was probably a bad idea. It was a far walk. "You really should get home to Daddy then. I'm sure he's just plain worried sick about his little girl."
The urge to punch him grew again, but so did a sick, twisting feeling in her gut. He'd struck below the belt with that one, although he probably didn't realize he'd just plunged an invisible knife into her large intestine. She didn't talk about her family to him, or anyone - ever - until that one superficial comment tonight. There was no way he could know that she hadn't even spoken to her parents in weeks, not even pleasantries, despite living in the same house. They weren't fighting, or on a vacation, just completely mentally checked out and far too concerned with themselves to notice their daughter - or each other. This hurt her so much more, ran so much deeper, than she was really aware. Was that why she came here? For a family?
"I doubt he even knows I'm gone," she muttered as she started her climb up The Wall. She was in good shape, and very agile, so she scampered up quickly, bitterness and resentment at this boy and his dirty fighting fueling her ascent.
"Hey!" he called up in a loud whisper. She paused, near the top now, to see him much smaller below her. She knew he could see straight up her skirt the whole time, and that he had looked. Do you like my panties, you bastard? They're real satin. Another one she had over him, although as far as she was concerned, he had still won the round this evening. "Uh, see you next week?" That stupid hat and the distance between them made it difficult to discern his expression, but she thought he looked awkward, uncomfortable, almost...apologetic. It didn't suit his face.
"Yea, see you." she called down as quietly as she could and quickly picked her way down the other side, to sparkling roads awash with the efficient white light of fluorescent street lamps. Perhaps she had won this evening, after all. Recalling the odd expression on his face, somehow made her feel worse about her victory, not better.
How much longer would she do this? When would she decide she wasn't coming back? Soon, she thought. Soon.