‘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?’
‘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