The Guardian

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Authors: David Hosp
mean that,’ he said after a while.
    ‘Yes, you did.’
    ‘I’m sorry, I . . .’
    ‘It’s okay. You’re right. You’ve been taking care of yourself for a while now. I’ll leave you be.’ She stood up and walked over to the front door, took her
leather jacket off the peg on the wall. ‘I don’t have any food in the house,’ she said. ‘I’m going to go out and get some things. Is there anything you’d
like?’
    ‘I have to take care of a few things today,’ Charlie said. ‘I don’t think I’ll be here for lunch.’
    ‘If you are, the food will be here.’ Cianna opened the door.
    ‘Sis,’ he called after her as she stepped out of the apartment. She turned to look at him. ‘I’m sorry I said that. I’m a little on edge. Let me take care of a few
things and then we can talk. You’ll be proud of me. I just don’t want you to worry, okay?’
    ‘Me worry?’ She gave him a sad smile. ‘I’ll be here when you want to talk.’ She closed the apartment door behind her.
    The Southie streets were busy and crowded. In the autumn chill the steam rose in delicate wafts from sewage grates and street vendors’ carts. The sounds of kids playing
stick hockey on the cement rink down by the highway carried sharply on the crisp air. Hockey was more popular here than basketball, in part because body checking and fighting were built into the
rules. Blood was a part of business down in the projects; it was a part of play, too.
    Cianna was comfortable here. It had taken some time after her release. She even considered moving someplace new – someplace where no one would know her or care about her past. In the end,
though, she knew she could never live anyplace but here. And fortunately for her, a stretch in prison had never been viewed with any particular sense of shame in this neighborhood. It even gave her
some credibility in certain quarters.
    The Tedeschi’s on the corner was like a thousand others across the city. It had narrow aisles filled with low-end staples. Soft, starched-white bread, generic soda, peanut butter and
various cheap canned goods were lined along the shelf-space. The store survived, though, on the goods sold behind the counter. Cigarettes and lottery tickets were the items that moved the fastest,
most purchased with government-issued EBT food-stamp credit cards.
    Cianna picked out some eggs, butter, and bread, and a plastic pack of processed bologna. The girl behind the counter was twenty pounds overweight and in her early-twenties, with bad skin and
worse teeth. A look of recognition came over her face when she saw her. ‘You’re Cianna, right? Cianna Phelan?’
    Cianna said nothing.
    ‘I grew up in the building next to you in the Colony. I was about five years younger, but I remember you. You had a brother a little closer to my age. What the fuck was his name, Chucky or
something like that, right?’
    ‘Charlie,’ Cianna said.
    ‘Right, Charlie. He always got picked on ’cause he was so fuckin’ small. You used to stick up for him, but there’s only so much you can do, right? How’s he
doin’ now?’
    ‘He’s good,’ Cianna said. ‘He just got out of the Army.’ She pulled out her wallet and gave the girl an impatient look in the hope that it would spur her to start
scanning her groceries.
    The girl took the hint and looked slightly offended as she started ringing up the purchases. ‘I heard you went away for a while. And now you’re doing that parole-guard shit?’
Cianna said nothing. ‘Some fuckin’ thing that happened last night to Vinnie Bronson at the projects, huh?’ she asked knowingly.
    Cianna recognized the girl, but had no idea what her name was. She certainly didn’t know her enough to make any admissions to her. ‘I’m not sure what you’re talking
about,’ she said.
    The girl winked like she was in on a secret. ‘Uh huh, I’m not surprised. Vinnie’s got some friends. Better not to know anything. They say it was a chick that broke

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