I never expected that something out of the ordinary would happen to me. From a young age I accepted that I was just going to be a normal boy in a single parent family. I graduated high school like I knew I would. I entered a local college, just as I had predicted. Let’s just say that there were no surprises. So, there I was, a twenty-one-year-old student working at a grocery store.
“Nick, once you’ve finished stacking the toilet paper, you’re free to go home. Don’t forget to lock up, alright?” Howard, my manager, said as he shrugged on his jacket.
I looked up from my crouched position next to the canned fruit. “Sure thing, Howard. Have a good evening.”
I heard a faint “you too” as he left and the store suddenly became eerily quiet. I sighed and continued my stacking.
Sure, working part-time at a grocery store wasn’t the best for a college student, but mind you, I didn’t really know what to do, so at the time, the grocery store was all I had. Not that I minded at all, but it’s just that I’ve always hoped for... more. When I was younger, I had all these adults telling me that I could do or be whatever the hell I wanted. Well, they fucking lied. They all made the world seem nicer and safer than it actually was.
I resented a lot of adults for that. I’ve always thought that adults were worse liars than children. I still thought that as I grew older, and at twenty-one I saw that I was, in fact, right.
My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the bell ringing above the door, signaling a customer.
“Sorry, but we’re just closing up,” I said, not turning around. When no reply came, I frowned. That was when I felt the cold metal press against my skull. I froze.
“Stand up,” a croaky voice demanded. “Slowly. And show me your hands.”
Fuck. This grocery store had a history of being robbed and I guess I was just waiting for it to happen while it was my shift, but that night, I wasn’t exactly ready. My blood ran cold as the stranger behind me nudged the gun harder against my scalp, growing more impatient by the second.
“Hurry up, pretty boy, before I blow your brains all over the floor.” He whispered right next to my ear and I got a whiff of rotting teeth and tobacco. I thought that his threat was a bit over the top, but I kept my thoughts to myself, just in case that guy was actually trigger happy.
He led me towards the counter with the gun pressed stiffly against my spine, and I followed, thinking of ways I could catch the man off guard. I had taken a self-defense class once and that was only because I thought the guy who ran the classes was cute. I stopped going when I realized I was the only guy there, but the other elder women seemed to be in his class for the exact reason as mine. I racked my brain for at least one helpful tip he had said, but now that I thought back on it, I was way too distracted by his pretty blue eyes to be listening to the words that came out of his mouth.
I looked around the counter, trying so desperately to find a weapon, but unless I wanted to throw a bunch of candy bars at the man, I was left empty-handed and defenseless.
“You know what to do now, princess,” the man wheezed out. “Open the register. Now.”
“I can’t,” I managed out, my voice wavering at the end. “The manager takes the money home with him at the end of the day. I just close everything up.”
“Bullshit,” the man spat, the gun still digging into my spine. “Scumbags like your manager always keep spare cash lying around. I don’t have any patience, kid. So you’d better give me that fucking money. Now.”
I gulped as I heard the click of the hammer being pulled back. Any bad move, and I would be as good as dead.
“Dude,” I began, trying to keep my voice as calm as I could get it in that particular situation, “I seriously have no idea where any money is. But we do have a lot of cigarettes and alcohol. You could sell those?”
“They’re not good enough, kid. I need the fucking money!” He was now pressing the gun so hard into my back, I wouldn’t be surprised it left a bruise the next day. If I could live to the next day, that is. His hands were shaking just as much as my own.
“Please, sir, I seriously do not have access to any money-”
The bell above the door chimed once more, and I let a small breath of relief. Help was here. That relief didn’t last very long, however, because the old man roughly grabbed me from behind and pulled me hard to his chest. The foul stench of body odor and unwashed clothes was so bad it clogged my senses and made my eyes water. I guess that’s why I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw a masked man walking nonchalantly into the store. He wore a tight leather suit that hugged his body perfectly, showing off his tall and lean frame. His dark eyes stared at the both of us through the slits of his mask that only covered his eyes. He looked young, maybe around my age. His epic image was ultimately ruined by the sound of a wrapper crinkling as he bowed his head a little to take a bite out of the Twinkie he was holding.
“Hold up,” the masked man said, his voice low and sounding like pure velvet. “Almost done.”
I turned to face the crook behind me, but he seemed just as confused as I was and we both turned back to my so-called ‘savior’. Yep, I was going to die. The Masked Man finished his cream-filled treat, licking off the extra cream from his thumb before crumpling and throwing the wrapper on the ground.
His six foot something frame slowly neared me as he rubbed his stomach almost absent-mindedly, letting out a low belch. As he neared, the thief hugged me even closer to his chest and I tried not to gag. His desperate and ragged breathing was constant in my ear, and I looked pleadingly at the masked man.
“You move and he dies, I swear to God,” the thief hissed in my ear.
“That’s a bit over the top, don’t ya think?” The masked man mused. “Look at the poor guy. He looks like he’s about to shit his pants.”
“I do not,” I defended.
“Shut up,” the both of them snarled.
A sigh escaped the masked man’s lips as he sauntered forward, seemingly not caring if I lived or died. “Look, man,” he said, sounding tired. “I’ve had a long day. Believe it or not, but I do have a personal life. Homework is a fucking headache, which I’m already behind on because I have to save his ass. So, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s all up to you, but I know that you would want to leave here with all body parts intact.”
Silence. The painfully loud silence was all I heard. It made my heartbeat sound a thousand times louder and I was positive that everyone could hear its frantic beating. I waited for the old man’s response. It was as if it all happened in slow motion. Mr. Robber behind me aimed his gun at the masked man and fired, the bang deafening me temporarily. But when I opened my eyes, the masked man was nowhere to be seen. As if he just disappeared into thin air.
“Nice going, dickhead,” I snarked at the robber behind me as he suddenly pressed me even closer to his chest. “Now you killed a fucking superhero. Well done, asshat.”
The man behind me chuckled, but it sounded different. This man had a low and smooth voice instead of the raspy/croaky voice of the robber. I looked down at the arm that crossed my chest and saw leather.
“What a potty mouth,” he whispered into my ear, his breath softly ruffling the dark brown curls beneath my earlobe. “Did you feel like crying? Did you feel like all hope was lost without me to save you?” He said with sarcasm and deep mocking in his voice
What the fuck?
I turned my head frantically, wondering where in the world my captor went. I was sure the man that was currently behind me was just as crazy as the thief. When I finally saw the old guy with wiry grey hair on the floor, tied up and gagged as if by pure magic, I released a breath. I didn’t know why I was so relieved. I guess it was because that then meant that this masked man didn’t kill the guy.
“Well,” the masked man said, voice laced with amusement. “Although I’d love to stay here and chat, I have somewhere I need to be.”
My mouth couldn’t form words. In all honesty, I was still trying to process what was actually going on. I think I had left my brain somewhere near the unfinished stack of canned fruits.
“Oh, and you’re welcome, by the way. The authorities are on their way.” And before I could properly thank the guy or even say goodbye, he was gone just as fast as he had appeared.
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