Sunday, 17 June 2018

A Chance For Love Episode 19

Episode nineteen
Rescue

“Whatever you do, don't let them get you. Just hang in there, okay? Help is coming. Victoria? Victoria? Hello? Are you with me?"
***
My stepmother stiffened for a second too long. She looked over her shoulder and found the empty doorway. Barely giving her a moment to register that she'd been effortlessly fooled by the girl she underestimated, I launched myself at her with a whole new strength I never knew I had in me. I'd never been one for physical attacks, but it seemed I'd been storing up my energy for this moment.
She squeezed the trigger, sending indiscriminate bullets ripping into the ceiling and ricocheting around the house. A few empty shots turned my trepidation to amusement. I let out a full-throated laugh as she groaned over her newest failure.
Gritting her teeth, she swung the empty gun at my face, aiming to break a bone or two. From the cracking sound that followed, and the eye-watering pain that ensued, she had surely hit target.
A warm liquid trickled down my temple, right where I'd been hit. I'd wave it off as beads of sweat, but the smell of copper and earth wafting into my nostrils said otherwise. I'd barely even recovered when she struck again, making both sides of my face even.
I made to slither away as her empty gun hit the floor, but a slap sent my face flying sideways. Her hands, trembling with untamed rage, grabbed my neck, raising me till my feet were inches from the floor. My legs dangled in the air as I struggled to break free.
My hands scrambled to find hers and pry them off. She reacted with gruesome immediacy, putting more pressure. In a frantic attempt to pry off her fingers, I dug into my neck with my fingers. Watching my pointless struggles, her eyes twinkled with excitement; the kind of excitement a child displayed when exploring his new toy.
This was the end. Death had finally found me.
Sometime ago I'd thought of death as a Knight in Shiny Armor who would come sweep me away from the world's ruthless depravity. But here I was now, on the verge of death, praying for a miracle. But I knew better than to hope for luck, because luck always deserted me when I needed it the most.
Overflowing with scalding hot tears, my eyes peeled open. If I would die—and with each passing second it became clear that I would—then I wanted to at least have one last look at the world.
"Yes," the murderer said. "Look at me one last time. I want my face etched into your dying memory."
She let out a cackling laugh intended to irritate me in my last moments. A new found energy soared within me. I would not stoop so low to let her take away my life like it meant nothing. No, I would live. And I would write this story in my ongoing novel.
Energized by her malevolence, I grunted with rage and delivered a bone-breaking kick to her kneecap. She yelped in pain and loosened her grip on my neck.
Simultaneously, we fell to the floor. I took a moment to fill my lungs with the oxygen they had been so rudely deprived of. Gripping the bed frame for support, I scrambled to my feet.
The enemy lay defeated in the spot where shards of glass had been only moments ago. She writhed and moaned, clutching her possibly broken knee. Crawling, she made to grab my leg. I jumped out of her reach, grabbed my phone and bag, and darted out
Sat in the front passenger seat of a taxi, my mind whirled around the events that had just unfolded. My mum had tried to kill me. Save for the blood smearing my face, I'd doubt she had really tried to kill me.
I wrapped shaky arms around myself. Hot tears blistered my cheeks, but I made no attempt to wipe them off.
"You don't look good," the driver said.
"I'm fine," I said.
"I see." He obviously didn't buy my little white lie. "Boyfriend problem?"
He smiled knowingly. Although I felt his gaze bore into me, I refrained from looking at him. I wouldn't want him freaking out over my wounds.
"Don't worry," he said. "For someone to inflict such wounds on you and leave you all by yourself in the middle of the night, that person doesn't deserve you."
Puzzled that he had already seen my injuries, I turned to look at him. He looked away, focusing on getting me to my destination.
He had a point. For my stepmother to inflict these injuries on me and leave me all by myself in the middle of the night, then she didn’t deserve me. If only I had realized this from the start. But no, I’d been too busy holding on to nothing. I'd been too busy building a house with ice.
"I'll drop here," I said. The driver stomped on the brake, but it responded a tad slow. I handed him his pay and stepped out of the car, taking my bag with me.
The night's quietude brought with it a new kind of insecurity I never knew existed. Strapping my bag to my shoulder, I gripped it firmly and headed for Sir Aaron's gate. More than once, I turned to look over my shoulder, and although I found nothing alarming, I knew being out here all by myself was a huge risk. But what choice did I have?
At least I'd arrived at Sir Aaron's residence in one piece. So, to an extent, I'd crossed over to safety. If something bad were to befall, it would already have happened. I rapped my fingers on the gate. A few seconds of no response told me to try again.
I knocked till my knuckles groaned. Frantically, I turned around to scan the street. The night, still as steel and quiet as death, made to ease me out of my worry. Finding no trace of danger, I retrieved my phone from my bag and dialed Sharon's number.
"Hello," Sharon said, her voice groggy. I had most likely disturbed her slumber.
"I'm at the gate," I whispered.
"What?" she asked.
"I'm at the gate," I repeated, my phone trembling in my hand. "Please come quick. I am so scared."
"Oh no!" she shrieked. "Victoria, didn't you say you were coming tomorrow? We are not around. We traveled for my cousin's naming ceremony, so we decided to spend the night here."
The weight of Sharon’s words knocked the breath out of me. I fell against the gate. Tears rolled down my cheeks. "Sharon, please just stop kidding and come outside. I am standing outside your gate."
"Mum," Sharon's high pitched voice pierced my eardrum. "Dad!"
I heard footsteps and the slam of a door. She seemed to be running. "It's Victoria! She's in trouble."
Her voice faded, only to be replaced with Sir Aaron's. "Victoria? Victoria, what happened?"
I made to speak, but words deserted me. I sobbed into the phone. Where would I go from here?
"I think something happened at home," I heard Sharon say. "She's at our gate."
"What?" Sir Aaron and his wife shouted in unison.
"Victoria," Sir Aaron called. "Victoria, can you hear me?"
"Yes sir,” I said.
"Please don't panic," he said. "Everything will be fine. I will call one of my friends to come pick you up. Just hang in there, okay?"
"Okay," I said. The line went dead. Almost immediately, Raheem's call came in.
"Raheem!" I half-screamed, unable to mask my relief.
"Toria? Is everything okay? I've tried to reach you all night, but you didn't answer any of my calls."
Had he? I'd placed my phone on silent just before stepping out into the dangerous night, lest the sound of a ringing phone alert night walkers of my pitiful presence.
I snuffled. "I'm sorry. My phone is on silent." Again, I snuffled.
"What happened?” he asked. “Are you in some kind of trouble? Where are you?"
It crossed my mind to lie. But then I held back. What's the point? Knowing the master sleuth he was, he'd already deduced from my strikingly low voice and my snuffles that I'd found myself in a new kind of trouble.
"Please call me later," I said.
"Wait. Wait. Please. What's wrong?"
Footsteps. I heard footsteps. Gasping, I whirled in that direction and swept my eyes around, squinting against the darkness. I detached my phone from my ear and strained to hear anything out of the ordinary. But I could only hear the thumping of my heart.
"Hello,” Raheem said. “Hello? Victoria? Talk to me. Hello?"
A figure moved in the dark, confirming my fears. Or was my mind playing tricks on me? Either way, I had to leave.
I pulled away from the gate. Every step I took echoed behind me. My breath quickened as I tried to think. Was I destined to die tonight?
Frantically, I swiveled my gaze around the desolate street, trying to find a stone or a rod to protect myself with. But I found nothing. I quickened my pace. He did too. With each step I took, I sensed the gap between us sprint toward abridgment.
He was close.
I could feel his hand reaching out to grab me. With a terrified wheeze, I spun around to face him. But I was alone.
Hugging myself, I turned around and continued to walk. Although I had no idea where to go, I knew staying in one place was not the best I could do. I needed to find a place to rest my head for the night.
"Raheem," I whispered amidst the dryness of my throat.
"Victoria, please what is going on?" Raheem's voice wobbled with emotions.
"I'm at Lance Avenue," I said. "I think someone is following me."
"poo! Head towards St. Peter's Junction. Whatever you do, don't let them get you. Just hang in there, okay? Help is coming. Victoria? Victoria? Hello? Are you with me?”
"I'm still alive,” I said.
"Do you know how to run?" he asked.
Was there a place in soccer for one who didn’t know how to run?
Ending the call, I stuffed my phone in my front pocket and lunged down the street. My traveling bag threatened to slow down my pace. I tossed it to the ground and made a mental note to return for it if I lived through this.
Although I didn't hear footsteps hammering the ground behind me, I had a feeling he was still after me. What did he want from me?
I'd heard stories of what became of people who were misguided enough to roam the streets at night. I'd rather die than be physically assaulted by one of these night roomers. My chest rose and fell as I reflected on my line of thoughts. I didn't want to die. True, we would all die someday. But I didn't want to die like this.
With every step I took, pain shot up my legs, and around my whole body. Moments of running and heavy breathing forced me to slow down. Every fiber of my being screamed at me to pick up pace, but my exhaustion didn't give me a chance. Doubled over, I gripped my knees with both hands and fought to breathe again.
I refused to let this be the death of me. With my racing heart now halfway quelled, I straightened my spine and darted toward a road-bend. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if I'd outrun my pursuer. But the sound of approaching footsteps proved me wrong.
My heart slammed against my chest as I spun to face him.
"Well well well," a bald man said, swinging his muscular arms.
"What have we got here?" a second man asked.
They grinned at me as I took a few shaky steps back. They breathed heavily, no doubt more exhausted than I was. The smirks on their faces revealed what they thought of me — an exhausted little girl who would not survive another race. I'd be honored to prove them wrong. This time, I'd be sure to outrun them.
Trusting my heels, I shuffled backward and braced myself for the next lap. But I froze as my back bumped into a hard surface I knew was a chest. I spun around to face two men smirking at me.
"Nowhere to run now, kitty kitty," the third man said. He reeked of smoke and beer, as did the others.
The fourth man emptied a bottle of beer into his throat. With a smug smile, he smashed the bottle into the ground. The crash, exaggerated by my fear, aimed to crumble what was left of my hope.
Giving up was easy. But I wanted a task more challenging. I'd hope. Raheem would be here in no time. If I could engage these men in a conversation, then I would be buying him time. Things would work out.
"That was a very exciting race," I said. "Let's do it again, see if I don’t outrun you this time."
The men exchanged gazes that spelt they were having no part in my game. Although they said nothing, anyone could see they conversed with their eyes. The fourth nodded at the others and stepped in toward me.
I took a step back, crashing into one of the men. He shoved me forward and into the arms of the fourth man. Meaty arms wrapped around me, squeezing so hard I feared I'd break. He pulled me disgustingly close, letting his stubbles haunt my already broken skin.
I winced. Not in pain, but in disgust. A thunderous laughter erupted from the depth of his stomach. Whimpering, I squeezed my eyes shut. I would not defile my eyes with the sight of him.
"Why out on the streets, doll?" he asked. "Did your mother not tell you that the owners of the night roam the streets once it's dark?"
I sobbed. "Please, just let me go. Please."
The men barked in laughter. I swallowed a lump in my throat as I felt a firm hand tug at my hair, yanking my head backwards. Laughter continued to boom around me.
"Why should we let you go?" the man behind me taunted. "You're a bad girl, aren't you? That's the only reason you're here at this time of the night."
He leaned in towards me, his dirty breath scraping my ear. The roar of an engine swelled my heart with hope. I pried my eyes open, and amidst the blinding headlights of a car, I caught sight of Raheem stepping out of the shadows.
"Raheem!" I screamed out, my voice laced with excitement and fear.
Raheem strolled toward us, unarmed and seemingly vulnerable. He stood there, a few steps away, his face simmering with rage.
His lone figure exhumed my fears. He looked so lean and fragile. I couldn't even see him hurting a fly. But here he stood, fists clenched, standing in the face of death for a girl he barely even knew. Why had I dragged him into this hopeless situation?
"Let her go," he said. His voice, low and agonized, broke me into more panic.
The men burst into savage laughter. I locked eyes with Raheem as the fourth man tossed me into the arms of another. The man stepped forward, pulling me with him. He wrapped his fingers around my neck, forcing me to relieve the scene with my stepmother.
"Get him," the man ordered.
"Raheem!" I screamed, fighting to break free, but my captor held me in a death grip.
One of the men launched himself at Raheem. I saw a few moves, and then a painful moan. The man's body collapsed in a heap on the ground. And my Raheem, he stood there, unscathed.
His eerie calm sent a shudder flooding my spine. The other men breezed in toward him. With my right foot, I stumped on my captor's foot. He whimpered at the unexpected pain. Barely allowing a flicker of hesitation, I jabbed my elbow into his torso and slipped out of his grasp.
I'd barely even taken one step away when he grabbed at my arm and yanked me to himself. I lowered my mouth to his hand and clamped down on it, drawing blood. While he winced in pain, I darted to Raheem's side, finding safety behind him. My chest pounded hard against his back.
Beat up, the other three men lay on the ground. They scrambled to their feet and stood beside the fourth man, ignoring the pain Raheem had inflicted on them like it were nonexistent.
The fourth man clenched his right fist and crushed it into his open palm. "You should never have done that."
My grip on Raheem tightened. I could feel a bitter taste spread around the back of my throat. "Raheem please let's get out of here. Please."
He played deaf to my pleas. My heart thumped even faster. Shoulders squared, he stood unmoving. I pulled at him and tugged at his arm, but he didn't budge. What was wrong with him? Did he have a suicide wish?
"Raheem please." I moved around him to meet his gaze, but he trained his eyes on the thugs the whole time, not even taking a moment to acknowledge me.
Fists clenched, he half-whispered, "Go take cover in the car. Stay put and don't come out."
I would not run and hide like some coward. How could he even ask that of me? "I am not leaving your side."
"Just trust me and do as I say. I will handle this." He placed a firm hand on my shoulder and tilted me sideways.
The men charged at Raheem. Gracefully, yet firmly, he shoved me out of harm’s way. He whirled around to parry the first strike, but it hit him in the chest. I could almost feel the impact on my very own chest.
A spine-tingling fight unfolded before my eyes. I watched Raheem present a whole new part of him I could never have imagined.
He moved with the grace of a dancer, sending and deflecting blows so fluently, my jaws dropped. His adroitness cast away my fears. With him, no harm could come my way. Or so I hoped.
One of the men flipped open a butterfly knife. Blood drained from my face at the sight of it.
"Raheem!" I pushed my voice to its limit till my throat went dry.
The man swiped at Raheem. Time stood still, throwing me into an abyss of suspense. I watched the blade split the air in two as it sailed toward Raheem. I heard a grunt I recognized to be his. The man had found flesh. He chucked and moved in to take another swipe.
Swift as lightening, my hero sidestepped, narrowly missing the stab. I released the breath I’d been holding. Grabbing the knife from the man, Raheem plunged it deep into his thigh and shoved him backward.
The man stumbled limply and hit the ground like a bag of rice. His frantic hands squeezed his bloodied leg. I returned my focus to Raheem.
He was fighting for me.
I couldn't imagine anyone risking his life for me. But Raheem did without a second thought. I would be forever be indebted to him. He had found a place in my heart.
A realization hit me as I watched the scene before me. There was one fewer of the thugs. Dazed, I turned to scan the road when a perceptively heavy object slammed into my head from behind. The pain of a thousand and one headaches crowded in on me.
With the smell of blood fresh in my nostrils, I collapsed into a heap on the ground. I heard Raheem scream out my name. Heavy eyelids slid over my teary eyes. I could still hear the sound of fight in the background. Blows landing. Men grunting. And amidst everything, I could still hear Raheem's screaming voice.
But like every other sound, it slithered from within earshot. Now I could only hear my pulsating heartbeat.
I could feel my blood slowing in my veins. Like sand slipping from between a person's fingers, I felt my life slip away from my grasp.
And then there was nothing.

To be continued

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