Author's Note: Written for Cordria's contest (on DeviantArt): write something beginning with "She was running down the alley..." Judged on originality.


She was running down the alley, panting for breath and struggling to keep her balance on the slippery floor. Not an easy feat, I assure you, but it's surprisingly easy to keep your balance when you're running for your life and any slip or stumble might mean your instant doom. Not a pretty picture, but hey, the truth is never pretty. That's what it seemed like to six-year-old Ella, anyway.

Ella's foot slid right in the middle of her musings and she gasped, struggling to right herself, but it was too late. Her balance was completely lost. Too bad she wasn't on the soccer team at her elementary school; cleats would sure come in handy right now. Flailing her arms wildly like some crazed discoing chimp, Ella soon found herself splayed across the alley floor. She pushed herself up to her knees and spat to get the dirty, waxy taste of the ground out of her mouth.

"Ella!" she heard her father's bellow behind her. She swallowed a screech and forced herself to stand up, but she only managed to crouch before her wobbly knees gave out. Desperately, she pulled herself forward with her hands, digging her short nails into the wood and scooting up inch-by-inch.

But it was too late; her demise was upon her.

She felt two strong (if skinny) arms wrap under her arms and pull her up. Twisting her head around, she stared right into the exhausted eyes of a nametag-wearing teenager. Frightened, she opened her mouth and began to cry.

"Ella!" her father yelled again, closer this time since the teen boy was carrying her towards him.

She wailed, knowing her fate had fallen upon her but refusing to go down without fighting. Kicking her legs, she grabbed the teen's hair and yanked on it. "Put me doooown!" she yelled. "Lemme gooooo!"

Grunting, the teen reached the end of the alley and handed her off to her daddy, struggling for a moment to loosen Ella's fingers from his hair. "Is she-ouch-yours?"

"Yes," her father said grimly, grabbing Ella's hand (which still managed to clutch a few of the boy's hairs) and pulling it to his side, apparently deaf to the teen's cry of pain. "I'm terribly sorry; this will never happen again." He paused to glare at Ella. "I'll make sure of it."

As her father dragged her away from the alley amidst her loud protests, Ella guessed she was in for a spanking, but still she argued. "Daddyyyy! I wann'ed to knock the pins down all by mineself!"

Her father frowned and looked away. "Ella," he started in his I'm-giving-you-a-lecture, time-to-zone-out voice.

Ella, with the social grace and wisdom that only young girls possess, decided to on the charm. "Yes, Daddy?" Ella asked heart-wrenchingly, wiping away tears.

Her sad act worked; her father's expression softened for just a moment before he looked away. "I am never taking you bowling. Never. Again."

"Aw, Daddy, pleeease? I'm real sorry. Nex' week maybe?"

"Maybe," he said before muttering, "In a few dozen years."

Ella squealed and wrapped her father in a hug. "Thank yoo!"

Unseen by her, he rolled his eyes before hugging her back.