age eighteen.
This particular March was freezing cold. Danny had only been in the city of New York for a few short months, and he wasn't exactly having the time of his life. He was working as a bus boy in a diner, making barely enough to pay the rent in the one-room apartment he paid on weekly. It was a shithole, but it was a roof over his head, and that was more than he could say for most of his co-workers.

He had come to New York to start over, to get away from his family, and it hadn't been easy. Living in one of the most criminally active neighborhoods in New York City didn't help. He had learned quickly this was nothing like home and that he always needed to be on his guard. He had started carrying a knife with him and was saving up for a gun of his own. He almost had enough. Within a few short weeks, he could feel a lot safer, maybe even start taking on jobs for one of the managers of the restaurant he worked for. They constantly told him he had the right look, the muscle for it, and Danny knew it was a good way to make sure he was taken care of. The diner was never going to get him out of the roach-infested room he called home. This would.

He wasn't worried about that at the moment, though. His shift was over, and the convenience store closed in fifteen minutes. Before his birthday was over, all he wanted to do was legally purchase the very thing he'd been bumming off of others for years. He didn't even like cigarettes, not really, but he still smoked them so that he could stand outside and have smoke breaks.

Five minutes into his walk, he felt the coolness of a gun to the back of his head. "You've gotta be fucking kidding me," he said, Southern accent stronger than usual because of his frustration. "What in the fuck makes you think I have more than five fucking dollars, you fucker?"

"Turn the fuck around and give me whatever you have."

Danny rolled his eyes. Their voice was shaky. First-timer, he figured. He did as the person asked and looked the kid in the eye. Couldn't be more than fourteen.

"You're shitting me. Have you ever shot a damn gun before?"

"Y-yeah. I'll blow your head off."

His reaction was to laugh. He shook his head. This kid hadn't shot a fucking gun in his life. Danny actually saw a bit of himself in the kid and felt sympathy for one of the first times in his life.

"Tell you what, I'll give you everything in my wallet if you give me that pistol."

The kid obviously wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. He agreed without hesitation. Danny knew he was getting a fair deal, more than the $5 he said he had, since he did have about $50 in there - the rest was at home in case of situations like this.

"Get a job, kid. Go to college. You might not turn out a deadbeat like me," he said as he took the gun from him, making good on his promise and handing him the money after the fact. Without another word, he took off in the other direction. As weird as the situation was, he couldn't stop from smiling as he moved the gun between his hands.

"Happy birthday to me."