Dad gave me something to do.

Before I headed out to primary school this morning, Dad gave me a small package with a letter on top. He told me that he was sorry to make me do this, and asked if I could deliver it to someone he knew by the name of Mr. Raynerson after school. I remembered that name. That was the Dad of one of my friends at school. I took the package and put it into my backpack, and started to head out. Before I could go out the door though, my dad stopped me.

“Jarred. Whatever you do, don’t open that box, alright? That’s personal stuff. You wouldn’t like it if someone opened a secret box of yours too right?”

I nodded, understanding what he said and what he was feeling. “Don’t worry Dad, I’ll keep it safe, I promise!” With that. I walked out the door and started my ten minute trek to school.
The walk was fairly nice for early Spring. A lot of the surrounding trees in the area were starting to grow back their leaves in a nice green color. I also started to think about things by myself. For a bit, I did wonder if I’d done my homework right last night. However, my small worry eventually got off track because I’d somehow started thinking about how my next “war game” should play out. What would be the story? What would happen?

Thinking about these sort of things helped make the long walk go quicker. Before I’d realized it, I had made it to East City Primary School. On my way through the doors, I saw someone not to far away. It was a girl I recognized.

“Hey Becky!” I waved to her to say hi.
“Hi Jarred.” Becky responded back. “How are you doing?”

“Doin’ good!” I replied back. “Hey, you thought up anything cool for my thing?”
“Oh, your war game? Well yeah, I’ve thought about some ways we can make it feel more real.” She took our a small notebook, which had multiple pages filled with words she wrote.

“Cool! What good’s a game if you can’t feel like you’re actually part of it?” With that I started walking down our school hallway.

School that day had been its usual drag. I’d listen to our teacher lecture us on some things, I’d take some minimal notes down while staring at the clock, and just wait my time. When the time did come, I was the first one out of my seat on us being dismissed.

As I walked out the classroom door, Becky was right behind me. I remembered what Dad asked me to do, and I figured I could ask Becky to help me with it.
Mostly because Mr. Raynerson was her dad.

“Hey Becky! I need your help with something!”

“Yes, what is it?” Becky responded back.

“Can you help me get this box to your dad?” I reached into my backpack and pulled out the small box. “I don’t really know where your house is now that I think about it.”

“Sure. I can take it to him.” She took the box out of my hands and put it in her backpack. “Is that it?”
I was about to say that it was, but I got curious about something, and decided to take the chance while I had it now.
“Hey, mind if I tag along to your house?”

Becky gave a confused look. “Huh? Why?”

“Well…” I put my hand behind my head and started scratching it. “I’ve never really been to your place before, and I’m kinda curious what it looks like. Plus I kinda want an excuse to keep talking about what you got written in that notebook of yours, heh heh.”

“Well, alright then. We’ll get started then.”

We started walking to Becky’s house from there. She lived quite a while away, about 25 minutes, which included crossing a bridge over the East River. It should have been a pretty straightforward walk.

Except today was a bad day.

We walked to find the bridge totally blocked. Lots of big constriction post-things where the walkway of the bridge, which multiple military men were in front of. Becky paused for a bit, squinting her eyes a bit.

“What th… Excuse me!” Becky walked up and called out to one of the men. “Excuse me, may I ask what happened here?”

The man had a stone-cold face, which really fit the role he was supposed to be in. Yet despite such a face, he remained polite in the face of us kids. “A big sailboat went and crashed into the bridge today. Won’t be completely fixed for a few days, but we’ll be opening up ferries tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow!?” Becky yelled out of surprised, which immediately turned into a sigh. “Alright, thank you for telling us.”

“No problem miss.” The soldier replied back.

“Drat. If this place is blocked, then we obviously have to find another way. Probably another ferry station” Becky pulled out a map out of her backpack. “Let’s see, if that goes there… and there goes there… then here should go over he-”

Becky froze.

“Becky, what’s up?” I asked. Becky was still staring at the map in utter silence. “Hey, c’mon, wherever we go, it’ll be fine.”

Becky slowly looked up. “Um… Jarred.” Becky was talking in a slow way. “Have you… ever heard of the Red-Light District?”

Red-light District? I’d heard the name before through some eavesdropping, but never really knew exactly what it was. “Yeah, sorta. Uhhhhh…Is it a place were bad people go?”

Becky lowered her map and looked at me with some kind of sad look in her eyes. “Look, Jarred, let’s just say that there’s a good reason they don’t tell us about the RLD in school until we’re older.” She paused for a second. “Jared, do you know about the birds and the bees?”

What? Birds and the bees? Becky was really smart and always was studying things way above what most kids knew. That being said a lot of it confused me, and I never really understood what she knew. This moment being one of them.

“Uhhhh…. I dunno? Birds eat bees or something?”

I really felt like I gave a totally wrong answer, and expected Becky to put her face in her hands. Instead however, she just sighed.

“Jarred. You should probably head home. We have to pass through the Red Light if we want to get to my place. We can arrange a time for you to come by another time.” Becky said, her voice sounding really sad.

I knew Becky was probably giving some good advice. However, I didn’t really want to follow it. “Becky, I’m gonna be super busy in the next couple of days and I know you are too. You let me tag along, and I’m gonna stick with you” Becky looked at me like I was some kind of idiot. Despite that, I kept talking. “Besides I kinda wanna learn more about where we live.”

Becky sighed in exasperation. “Jarred… Listen, I already know way more about Phanes than most kids our age do and I’m telling you that you really shouldn’t-”

“Also I kinda don’t remember how to get home myself and I also don’t want to walk back a super long way again.”

Becky sighed yet again, and put her face in her palms.

We walked about five minutes on our way to the Red Light District. The entire trip through, Becky had been mostly silent. I tried to stir up some small talk, but she never maintained it very long.

“Oh come on Becky.” I said to her. “Whatever the Red Light place is like, it can’t be that bad, especially out in the open.”

Becky then turned to look at me. “Jarred, that’s not what I’m worried about.” She turned her head forward again, whispering something to herself. “I’m worried about you…”

We soon came across what was supposed to be said district. It didn’t look too different from any others we’d been to. Just an average assortment of small building in a kind of strip. It looked more like a small town. I was confused as to what the big deal was. It was in broad afternoon-light, so I didn’t see anything to suspicious.

“Jarred.” I turned my head to see Becky’s looking at me. “Whatever you do, don’t look inside the buildings, not even if you hear something.”

I was really confused by this statement. What was inside these buildings? Surely it couldn’t be so bad that looking through the windows would be a crime.

We kept walking through the district, with us mostly staying silent the entire time. I’d wanted to bring up conversation to break it, but the way Becky was staying silent made it feel really awkward to do so.

As we were walking by, I spotted something on the ground near a building. It looked like a black piece of clothing. That being said, it was pretty small for being clothing. I was really curious about it, so while Becky wasn’t looking I snuck over to it and picked it up. It felt really soft. I wasn’t really sure what it was, but then I heard a sound coming from the window in front of me.

I looked up to see a man and a woman. Though they didn’t seem to see me. They looked like they were wrestling super hard. And to boot, they were doing it without any clothes on! It was definitely something interesting to see, and I was just standing there in awe.

As I watched them, my eyes started trailing towards their center. Before I could get an real look at it though, I felt a sudden yank on my arms and I was being pulled away real fast. I thought it was Becky, and that she had found out I’d ignored what she said. However, when I turned, it was a blonde lady wearing a bra and some pants.

“Kid!” She “yelled” in a hushed tone as she kept pulling me away from the sight of the window. “What are you doing here!? Little guys like you shouldn’t be here at all. It’s not safe for you!”

I got a little jarred from this new sudden interaction “Well, uh… I needed to head to a friend’s place, but the bridge got closed, and the nearest ferry station that’s open is past here.”

The lady sighed. I’d been causing a lot of those lately today now that I thought about it. “Kiddo, this is a place that’s for adults only. I don’t know what you were thinking trying to come through here, but kids your age shouldn’t be seeing these sort of things.” She turned to look at the path I was initially walking down. “I saw your friend walking down here as well. I didn’t stop her because she seems smart enough to know what not to look at. But someone like you isn’t ready to know about these kind of things yet.” The lady said all of these words like she was a mother of some sort. Not in a bad way though, she sounded really gentle about it. “Go catch up with our friend, I’m pretty sure she’s worried about you right now.” She gave me a gentle tap on my shoulder, which told me I should probably be following her advice.

I started running, trying to catch up with Becky. I could see her not too far away. When I finally caught up with her, she started turning her head towards me. Yet again, she sighed at me. I expected her to call me a dummy or something, but the sound of how her words came out tell me she wasn’t even concerned about that.

“So… you saw it huh?” She asked.

I replied back, “Uh… I guess… probably? That thing those two people were doing?”

Becky started talking again. “Jarred…guys like you, especially at your age, really shouldn’t be knowing about this stuff. It gets them interested in things they shouldn’t be.”

As I hear her words, I felt compelled to say something, and came out with it.

“Honestly, it didn’t bother me.” As I said that, Becky gave me a confused look. “I could tell it’s not something I’d really see myself looking at, even in secret. Even if it was bad for me to have seen it, I’m glad I got to see another part of the place we live in!” I said all of this with a smile that I couldn’t resist making. “I probably wouldn’t include all that wrestling in all my games ‘cause I don’t want anyone to go home bruised, but I’m happy I got to learn something new. Thanks for letting me tag along, Becky.”

“Uh…” Becky just looked at me, really confused. “Well… okay. As long as you don’t make your parents mad or something, it’s fine.”

Man, I was really giving people a tough time today, huh?

We eventually made it to the ferry station, and boarded it to Becky’s place. It was pretty crowded, probably because of the bridge closing. We needed some space, so we headed to the top to look at the city and river.

As usual, we started chatting about how I could make my games a little bit more realistic. During the conversation, I started to also got really curious about the box.

“Hey, Becky, do you know what might be in the box that my dad wanted me to give to your dad?”

Becky turned to me. “Mmmm, not really.” She took out the box again. “It does look like the tape on it was peeled and put back on. Your dad probably wanted to make sure what it was before sending it off with you. He’s also really lazy I guess.”

I laughed a bit. “Haha, wouldn’t be surprised. You wanna take a look?”

Becky turned to me and shook her head. “Nah, I don’t think we should. It’s their package”.

I really wanted to take a look, so I tried to convince her. “Come ooooon, the box’s already been opened. No one’s gonna know.”

“Okay, fine.” Becky gave in.

We both opened the box by slowly peeling the already peeled tape from the box. We were surprised to find what was inside. It was a preserved organ thing in a small jar.

“Oh Jesus Christ!” Becky immediately shut the box and put the tape back on it.

“What was it?”

Becky calmed down for a bit, then told me. “That’s a rabbit heart. My dad’s becoming a priest. They were going to do a formal offering, but his schedule’s been so inflexible I guess it has to be hand delivered.”

I was amazed. “Whoa… your dad’s becoming a priest? That’s pretty cool!”

Becky shrugged. “Eh, not really. He gets some cool benefits, but other than that, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Whatever you say.” I turned my head to look at the box again. “Hey, I heard in some places, bunny hearts are meant to be good luck. I wonder if it helped us get through the Red Light place.” Becky immediately turned to me.

“You dummy, those are rabbit feet that do that, not some dead beating organ”.