dooney and bourke'

Cats Eat Birds: Prologue

For those of you still curious, here’s the unedited prologue of the story I was talking about. Hope you enjoy! - Ivy


GOTHAM CITY; THE NARROWS | 11:57  PM | EIGHT YEARS AGO | CRISTEN YOUNG

As a street-kid, being punched in the face was about as regular of a pastime for me as what the middle-class do on Sunday mornings. I would imagine—or at least I expected, and arrogantly so—that being punched by a man that had at least a foot on me would be a lot less painful. I was completely wrong, as it was entirely possible that I’d broken my jawbone or at least gotten a bruise that would be seen for weeks. Feeling the puffiness already start to surface, I rolled out of the way of another punch.

The man, a burglar (god, I hated burglars), had ripped a lady’s purse from her shoulder and booked right past me. Hearing her screams made my stupid overly-righteous brain kick into motion. She was lucky I’m fast, because otherwise she’d have to say goodbye to that Dooney & Bourke. Me? I’m not so lucky.

Jacket slick with puddle water and pupils blown wide to take in every detail the dimly lit alley could provide, I lurched at his leg and pulled him back before he could snatch up the purse and run again. Somehow my gangly ten-year-old arms managed to scrape his boot out from beneath him. He epically face-plants into the murky concrete with a sickening crack and it’s resulting groan of protest. Shooting up on my arms as fast as I can, I scooped up the bag on my way out; maybe it’s best I don’t stick around.

He must naturally think the opposite, as he goes in for the kill and then I’m suddenly belly-flopping ungracefully into the sidewalk. My chin jolted out of place the moment I hit the ground, making groaning in pain more hurtful than it should be. Once more, never one to give up a fight until I’ve won or died, I hear a clatter behind me and press myself up on my hands.

The guy must'a pulled something on me, I think before I turned back, hopefully not facing the barrel of a gun. It’s at that moment I remember where I am as well. Crime Alley has been home to so many deaths and crimes (it’s called Crime Alley for a reason), and I’m sure that the universe wouldn’t mind adding one more murder to the list—mine. Damn, and I didn’t even get to ask if he knew her wallet was in her other hand.

But in my peripheral vision I see it; the near blinding color of a lemon with the texture and reflective properties of silk. I ask myself if you’ve gone insane. Probably, considering my idol is standing three feet behind me (on top of the perp I was supposed to be taking care of) and I, Cristen Young, am just sitting there like an idiot. Sounds like me.

Swiftly, I turned on my hands and met eyes with the boy wonder; Robin. The second Robin, if I knew any better. And I did, because I practically worshipped this kid. If I could be anyone in the world—out of so many arguably better people—I would definitely be Robin. It’s not because he’s Batman’s sidekick, either. Robin has a different breed of freedom I’m desperate to taste.

I just stared at him and he stared back under that red domino mask. In the scarce light a nearby street-lamp provides, I found that his face is boyish and his twin bangs hang over his eyes like two sets of fingers trying to hold hands. He was older than me by six years, sixteen at the most, and looked like the happiest boy alive. Dramatically, he elbowed his cape behind him and placed his hands on his hips heroically,“You’re safe now, miss, no need to worry. Are you alright?”

I blinked several times up at my hero, before sputtering out what sounds like utter nonsense,“Yeah—yeah! I’m fine, super fine, right as rain. Thank you for your help.”

Robin stepped off the burglar who promptly groaned. Pointing to the passed out crook, he smiled and inclined his head toward me,“Did you do this? As in everything I didn’t do?” He questioned. I ran my eyes down his costume in awe; the red blazer, the green undies, the yellow collared cape. This isn’t a cosplay… especially because the R over his heart is so accurate. I have to admit that he looks a tad dorky, but hey, he had saved my life. I wasn’t gonna judge.

Wide-eyed, I responded with a hurried nod. He’s here. He’s real. Ever since the first Robin put on the tights I’d been completely smitten. While the other orphaned kids at The Martha Wayne Home for Precious Girls sighed dreamily at their Superman lunch-boxes or Green Arrow comic books, I blushed every time someone mentioned the songbird. No wonder I ran away from that place.

When there was a long period in which Batman was accompanied by no one at night, I’d grown concerned even if the problem never related to me. Then came the second boy wonder who instantly inspired me. Rumors that he was a street-kid like me surfaced a few months after his arrival, and I grew an instant crush that I knew would never come to light. Every kid had crushes on adults or teenagers, that’s just how life was. But it’s still an abnormal experience for me; crushes were few and far between, never really focused on unless I had acquired a good amount of edible food for the night.

“Wow,” Robin says, eyebrows raising and stark white irises expanding with his surprise. He chuckles,“You sure can pack a punch! What’s your name, sweetheart?” He offered me his gloved hand. Just looking at it makes me blush, so hard that the lack of blood in the rest of my body causes me to tremble like a leaf in fall.

I flush and took it. Robin brought me to my feet, scooping up the bag and giving the rooftops enclosing us a once-over. Seeing that they’re still empty and feeling that I was trembling, he settles his hands on my smaller shoulders,“Are you alright?”

I nodded too quick to be true, tongue suddenly tied as I tried to produce even one little word,“Cristen.” I told him,“My name is Cristen.”

He repeats his statement,“Are you really alright, Cristen?”

Again, I nodded, trying to angle myself in his shadow so he can’t see the red conquering my face. He knows my name.“Ye-Yes. Sorry, I’m just—It’s really nice to meet my hero in person.” I blurted. Smiling to cover up just how embarrassed I’m feeling doesn’t seem to be working, and yet I keep doing it.

Robin smiles, really really smiles. He’s her hero, huh? He’s never really been anyone’s hero before. All this Robin has ever been was the brat people would curse at, the kid they’d scream at to “bring back those tires!” he’d stolen, and the street-rat that gangsters would put out their cigarettes on. I guess it makes sense. I’m certainly one of the street kids too, due to the shabby quality of my clothing and the fight-swelled puffiness of my face.

Robin hesitates, but then truthfully says,“… I can’t do much for you. But I can do this.”

Robin twists the insignia on his chest until it clicks, pulling it off to reveal a blank red plate beneath. He extends the R with a soft grin, instantly feeling better about his argument with Bruce earlier that morning at my smile. I take it with careful hands like it’s made of glass, smoothing my fingers over the face and beaming up at him. There are tears brimming the edges of my eyes when I murmur,“Thank you.

Jason handed me the purse and nodded,“It’s no problem. Can you do me a favor and give that lady back her purse?”

I gave a short nod, still caught in a staring contest with the R, before I look up to officially respond. The part of me that wants to uphold my tough reputation insists that I stop crying, but the little girl meeting the hero that makes her keep going… she laughs happily. My jaw hurts, my chin hurts, my everything hurts, but the metal circle in my hands makes it all worth it. It is such a minor action and yet it means so much.

He leans against the fire-escape of the nearest building, balancing against it with one foot and hand. Robin waves with his free one, saluting me,“See you round’, Crissy.” He grins. He’ll remember this one, he knows that; the first time a kid called him their hero. It feels good to be Robin.

“See your ‘round, Robin.” I responded, waving softly and holding the R to my heart like it’ll allow me to absorb every story it’s seen. The metal scaffolding softly clanks as Robin jumps from each railing to the next, before he leaps upward and disappears behind the wall of a roof. The shadow of his cape on the pavement vanishes into the darkness, his laughter echoing off the stone and brick in a way that would be eerie to any criminal. Good thing I’m one of the good guys. After this experience, I’ll always be.

With his absence, I’m are free to look down at the symbol with an idiotic grin. Maybe being a street kid isn’t so bad.

It’s that night, in that little alley as I stood over an unconscious burglar and held Robin’s R to my heart, that I truly understand why everyone looks up to heroes. It made me want to be one too.

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