Life (3)

Life

‘A boyfriend?’ Sarah was surprised by the blunt question. ‘No, i don’t have one. Why do you ask?’.

‘How long have you been single?’ he asked. Sarah began to be suspicious about James’s intentions.

‘What is going on?’ Her voice raised, attracting some eyes around them. The ambiance music of the coffee shop wasn’t loud enough to cover their conversation.

‘Nothing! Sorry, he’s just… not used to talk to girls.’ John interrupted before James could get a word out.

‘No, i’m not.’ the latter whispered.

An awkward silent settled at their table. Sarah scanned the three guys one by one and caught John and Chris exchanging a look.

‘What? Why did you invite me for lunch, exactly?’ She felt trapped, ambushed. John leaned closer to her, lowered his voice and said:

‘Listen. We… Just  wanted to let you know that we are here. If you ever need… Anything. Help. Support. Anything.’ He glanced at Chris one more time then directed his attention back on her.

Sarah looked confused and moved. She came in Toya City alone, to pursue her studies and become an architect, leaving her entire family back in Chime town. On her first day of school, she was teamed up with a random guy for a project that would occupy them for a year. As they had to interact often, they learnt to know each other and eventually fell in love. Their relationship evolved faster than she expected: without notice, he moved in with her. It didn’t bother her at first, she thought she would adapt. But as time went by, his small flaws became bigger and her tolerance reduced to a point where she reached her limits. His jalousie appeared when she met Charlotte whom is more outgoing. He wouldn’t let her be without him: she felt locked in her own relationship. After another unresolved fight, things got out of hands. The next morning, she found herself using make up more than she usually did. She then remembered her father’s greatest lesson: ‘Don’t ever let a man mistreat you in any kind of way. You are my daughter. My princess. A queen to the world.’ She left her appartment and found shelter with Charlotte and Karen. She managed to avoid him for few days, until she had to go back to her appartment to take some clothes. He apologised, begged her to come back and promised it wouldn’t happen again. She wanted to believe him, but when he stepped closer to hug her, her body remembered his violence and tensed. She pushed him away and clearly stated her decision: ‘It’s over.’ The same night, Karen and Charlotte stopped by her appartment after Sarah told them what happened and how he reacted. They let him know that he had one day to gather his stuff and leave. The next day, the three of them spend the night at Sarah’s place. It took her a week to feel at home again. Once she did, she noticed a silhouette creeping behind a tree, down on her street, some time to times. The same silhouette appeared now and then every where she went: she didn’t feel safe anywhere anymore. And no one could help her with that. So when she heard John’s words, a sense of relief burst in her chest.

Days passed and Sarah found herself surrounded most of the time: she let her guard down, her paranoia faded.

The eve of all Saints arrived. The moon was high amongst stars. Little monsters were running from house to house, screaming and laughing out loud. Sarah was on her way to Karen and Charlotte’s party, her walking dead make-up scaring small ghosts, princesses, vampires and wizards. She walked proudly.

Suddenly, a hand grabbed her and pulled her in the darkness of an a alley. Another hand blocked her mouth before she could make a sound. As she was very close to the stranger, she could smell his perfum. She pushed him away and turned to face him: ‘Jamal! What the hell!’

The man walked slowly to her. His eyes fixated on her. The more he came closer, the more she stepped away, until her back hit the wall. He put his hands on it, trapping her between his arms.

‘Who are those guy?’

‘What?’

‘You don’t belong to them. You belong to me. We belong to each other.’

‘What.. Listen, go away and i won’t call the cops.’

‘You’re supposed to be with me…’ He closed his eyes and aproached his face to hers.

‘Go away!!’ Sarah pushed as hard as she could. They froze for a second, starring at each other. Confusion filled his eyes. ‘I don’t belong to you. I belong to no one. I’m not an object you can own.’ Her heart beat faster each second. Her hands were trembling.

‘You love me… I love you.’

‘No. Not anymore.’

One those words, something broke in him. She turned her back on him and walked away. In a flash, his expression changed. He grabbed her by the arm, turned her around and punched her to the ground. She didn’t have the time to process everything that he put himself on top of her. With one hand, he held hers, while his other one moved down. He was strong and heavy. Sarah could barely do anything. She moved about but he didn’t flinch. Instinctevely, her knee met his sensitive parts making him scream of agony. His grip loosened. She took her chance and punshed him in the face: he fell on the ground. She stood up and started to run but was quickly caught up by Jamal. He pulled her further in the alley and attacked her relentlessly. Hollers of anger came out of his lungs as his fists percussively hit their target. Suddenly, he stopped.

He looked her: her eyes were closed a long time ago, blood covered her make-up and bruises started to appear. He stood up, starred at her inanimated body one last time before walking away.

Sarah regained consciousness for a moment. She looked at the stars sparkling on a black curtain. A muffled noise attracted her attention. She turned her head to her left with the remaining strength she had: she couldn’t believe the scene displayed before her eyes. Jamal was immobilized against the wall: he grasped for air. Someone else was running toward her. John…

 

 

To be continued

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Time (7)

Time

Few hours have passed since they met the father. Ezekhiel looked at his friend talking on the phone, wondering why wasn’t he as fearless as Simo. ‘Yeah, we’ll be back for dinner, i think.’ As those words came out of his mouth, Simo noticed a movement at the far right window on the first floor. ‘Gotta go.’ he said as he stood up. ‘You’re right: need to go to the backyard.’ They headed behin the house: the backstage of it showed something very different from the front. The grass wasn’t maintained, dead leaves returned to dust on the ground and trees were dying of thirst. A small cabin was hidden between two of them: from the entrance, Simo could see a mattress. He had no more doubts on the situation. He checked if the back door was locked: it wasn’t. Before they invited themsleves in, Simo stopped his friend: ‘His father is a alcoholic and has a tendency to beat his son. And probably his wife too.’ Simo made eye contact with his soon-to-be partner in crime to clarify his agreement on what might happen next. Ezekhiel nodded. They went in. Beside low voices coming from the TV, the house was quiet. Clean. And warm. StrangeSimo thought. On the hallway’s walls, pictures of the family smiling and having good times were displayed. Ezekhiel glanced at his friend: the latter proceeded to walk up the stairs, undisturbed. He gave a look in the room on his right: the man fell asleep on the couch, his beer spilling on the carpet. Once on the first floor, the mood changed. The corridor was pitch black. ‘Which door?’ Ezekhiel whispered. Simo raised his shoulders. At the same time, a sound of a door opening led them. They slowly walked towards it then entered the room. It was minimalist: a bed in a corner and a desk on the other side were the only furnitures dressing it. Josh removed the curtains half way to let some sun light in. When he turned around to face his guests, the latters looked surprised: a black eye, swollen lips, a cut below his other eye, bruises on his arms and an arched back as his stomach was in pain. He sat on his bed. His steps were small and movement in slow motion. ‘What happened…’ – ‘Come with me.’ Simo interrupted. Josh looked surprised. He didn’t expect anything from anyone and wondered why they would come to his place in the first time. He looked at Simo. Seriousness overflowed around him. Ezekhiel did the same: ‘What are you talking about? He can’t just leave.’ Simo stared at Josh. ‘Your father did this to you, right? I didn’t think of what i would do once we will be face to face. But now… It seems pretty obvious that you need to get away from him. Even if he’s your father. It doesn’t give him the right to do that. So, come with me. We’ll find a solution once you’re out of here.’ A silent settled. Josh was thinking about it. Ezekhiel couldn’t find words to describe his intentions nor his feelings at the moment. ‘You can’t…’ – ‘I can’t leave.’ Josh whispered. Simo frowned: ‘Why?’ His aggressive tone surprised Ezekhiel. ‘Lower, Sy.’ Josh remained silent. He knew that his reasons weren’t logic. ‘There are other ways.’ Ezezkhiel tried to calm his friend, as frustration grew in him. ‘Not if he doesn’t want to be helped!’ Simo turned his eyes on Ezekhiel. The latter understood his feelings, but was powerless.

‘WHO’S THERE!?’ A voice shouted from downstairs. The three teenagers turned simultaniously their heads towards the door. Fear and apprehension could be read on their faces. For a second, they froze. Simo reacted first: ‘Come with us. What do you think he’s going to do once he’ll know we’re here?’ As Josh didn’t make any move, he continued: ‘Look at you!! Look what he did because you almost drowned! Look at what he’s capable of doing!’ Tears filled the fragile boy’s eyes. ‘He’s coming fast.’ Ezekhiel commented. A few seconds later, the bedroom door broke, showing the angry man, still drunk, in it frame. ‘WHO TOLD YOU YOU COULD HAVE GUESTS?’ Josh couldn’t move. The man started to walk toward him an idea in mind: beating his son up to give him a lesson. Without thinking, Ezekhiel and Simo stepped in his way. ‘Get out of my way.’ His voice calmed down. Ezekhiel felt a thrill on his back. As no one moved, the father engaged a fight. By reflex, Ezekhiel barely dodged the first punch but was hit by the second. He stumbled on the side but reacted in an instant when he saw the man walking forward. He tackled. They both fell on the floor: Ezekhiel tried as much as he could to immobilize his opponent but received few punches along the way. While Ezekhiel kept the father occupied, Simo turned his back to Josh, bent his knees, lowered his center of gravity and arched his arms: ‘Hop on!’ Josh stood still. He couldn’t believe the scene that was played in front of his eyes. Suddenly, a voice screamed in his mind: ‘Run!’ Like a wake up call, Josh made a decision. He jumped on Simo’s back. As soon as he felt his weight, Simo ran out of the room. ‘Zeke!!’ The latter glanced at them going through the door. He threw a weak punch on the father’s face, stood up and ran away. As they walked down the stairs, they could hear a grunt. ‘Maybe, i shoudn’t have hit him.’ Ezekhiel confessed. When they arrived in the backyard, the man was already at the backdoor. The teenagers fled as fast as they could, but not fast enough. Simo and Ezekhiel shared the same thought. When they arrived at the front side of the house, where sun was shining, Ezekhiel threw the trashes at the father’s feet. The latter fell flat on his face, giving them time to disappear.

After making sure they were out of the father’s sight, they slowed their pace. Simo put Josh down and called his father. ‘Are you sure he’s going to agree with this?’ Ezekhiel asked. Simo paused. ‘Yeah. He will.’ Half an hour, a car parked in front of them. The driver’s door opened. A man in his late forty appeared. He looked sharp with a white shirt and black pants on. His face inspired confidence and trust. ‘What’s going on?’ His tone was set. Ezekhiel hesitated to speak. ‘Well, his father’s beating him up any chance he gets. I needed to get him out of there.’ Simo’s father scanned them then motioned them to get into the car. Simo sat in the front, while Ezekhiel stayed with Josh in the back. A heavy silent reigned in the small cockpit. ‘So. What were you thinking?’ The father asked. ‘What’s your plan, now?’ He didn’t get any answers.

When they arrived at Simo’s house, the night reclaimed its rights. Rain started to drop as they found shelter. Simo’s father let his son take care of his guest. They took Josh upstairs to Simo’s room and settled him in the bed. As Josh fell quickly asleep, they both lay down on the ground. ‘So, you’re sure about this?’ Ezekhiel asked. After a moment of reflexion, Simo said: ‘Yes. I’m sure. He needed to get out of there.’ Ezekhiel stayed quiet. ‘Someone had to get him out of there.’ Ezekhiel took a deep breathe. ‘A bit cranky, don’t you think?’ he asked. ‘I know.’

 

 

To be continued