I take a few big breaths as the music stops playing. My lungs hurt from the intensive work they made. The sweat runs down my body as I stand in one position smiling at the audience. I love the feeling of people watching me doing something I admire.
After I graduated from high school over a year ago a new dance studio in Derby gave me the position of a choreographer and a dancer. They had found me through my school’s dance competitions I used to won each year. I sometimes can’t believe how lucky I was for them to find me. A lot of people can dance these days. So it’s easy to hire someone to teach others. Not to mention that there is quite a distance between Derby and Leeds.
After I came to Derby we made a lot of videos of my work and posted it online. My choreographies quickly got popular and many people wanted to go to my classes. What meant a lot of work for me and some money to make a living. I don’t live alone so they are enough to share the bills. My boyfriend, Ethan, as a music producer doesn’t earn millions but more than me and enough for us to live comfortably.
Felix, my friend I had meet three years ago, also works here with me. He is also really popular but I honestly think it is because of his looks...kidding...the boy is just a really talented dancer. We have become a really close friends because we had only known each other when we first came here. Kate and Camille had studied journalism in Leeds but they quickly moved to the university in Derby.
Ethan, Tyler and Ryan works with music in a small company in the city. Tyler is one of the reasons why Kate moved here. Camille...probably didn’t want to be alone. In this way we were all together again.
“Whao, that was great, Natalie!” Felix exclaims as we exit the stage. His red messy hair and childish grin makes me smile along with him. His messy freckles rejuvenate him a lot. I still remember the day when he first came to school. As a new student Felix acted shy and quiet however soon his true personality came out. He indeed isn’t really loud but he is more crazy than he seems.
“Yeah, I know...my performances are always great,” I respond sassily gaining a chuckle from the boy.
“You mean...our performances, right?” he states putting his arm around my shoulder pulling me into a side hug. I quickly push him away laughing along with him.
“Yeah, yeah, right,” I answer. Felix and I have become a really good friends. We see each other everyday. Beside we like to collaborate from time to time. And our fans love it so it is a win-win situation. We are called the best couple in town thought we aren’t a thing and everyone knows about it. But I guess it is indeed something new for this local community. Derby is mostly an industrial city so a new huge dance studio and a music studio must have been quite a thing.
I walk into my dressing room to find it empty. There is no one beside me and a package on the table. Fans often give me various presents. From hats and scarfs in the winter to small notes of how they love me and the letters where they write about their dreams. But that kind of gifts are always sent directly to the studio and boxes like that one on the table unfortunately aren’t anything new to me. But aren’t also pleasant.
I slowly make my way to the table looking around making sure that the person who left it here isn’t in the room. I closly check every corner ready to attackt empty handed. Finally coming to a conclusion that I’m alone I take the small box in my hand and read the note that is stick to it.
I love your style princess, but I would love to see you in something like that.
I close my eyes in frustration. I knew it wouldn’t be something nice. That kind of ‘gifts’ are usually something gross and perverted. These aren’t present from fans, but from psychos. And when it comes to me there is only one person that sends them. Secret Admirer. Always the same handwriting what makes me sure that its all comes from the same person.
He started with innocent love letters but with time they have got more...inappropriate to say it gently. As far as I’m concerned hoddies or some T-shirt’s are okay but underwear or some other sexual toys aren’t. And I think this is not only my opinion.
I carefully open the box and my jaw drops down. I still can’t get used to things like that. Even though it is not the first time it still hurts me a lot. As if I had been trapped in some invisible cage with one disgusting guy. I can’t run away. He is always close somewhere. Even though I am alone I can feel his stare on me what makes me shiver.
I take out the content and sigh deeply as the wave of disgust attacks me again filling me from head to toe. It was a really provocative lingerie in a deep sexy shade of red.
My breath sharpens and I crush the box aggressively. I throw it into a trash bin along with the underwear. I scream out of irritation and kicked the bin gripping my hair tightly as if it was going to make its content dissapear. Of course magic like that unfortunately doesn’t exist.
I stand still in one place breathing havily when suddenly door bursts open and a panicked Felix runs inside with concern written all over his face. “What happened? Are you okay?” he asks as he comes closer to me and I sigh deeply shaking my head. He knows about ‘secret admirer’ so there is no point in pretending that everything is okay. Even if I wanted to I don’t have a strenght to do so.
I nod my head gesturing him the overturned trash. I closed my eyes once again taking big breaths in attempt to calm myself down. Tears threaten to fall but I try to keep them in. I can’t cry now. Not in here.
“Don’t you think it’s too much? How long has it been going on?Why don’t you go to the police with it?” he asks making me laugh bitterly. Police?...As if...
“And what? Do you think they will help me? They will just say that it’s my fault that the guy acts like this...he didn’t hurt me physically...so they won’t care,” I declare and the boy shakes his head.
“Are you like that because of Layla?” he questions coming closer to me and takes me by my shoulders. I look at him but my mind flies somewhere else.
Layla...she is my cousin. Not long before I graduated from high school she had moved to my hometown. She was attending the same class as me and she was also in the same small dance studio. But not long after some random and unknown guy got interested in her. But what he was doing...wasn’t something that normal person would do. He was perverted in his letters and we went to the police with it. But they ignored her. They said that it was her fault and that was how it ended when you went to clubs illegally. But she wasn’t that type of a person. She was pure and talented young girl with dreams. She was never coming back home late. She though that clubbing is useless and there are more interesting things to do. Soon after I graduated she disappeared and police ignored us once again saying that she had run away.
That is why I moved here. I wasn’t planning to but I didn’t want to stay in that place. The place where because of me a member of my family was kidnaped.
But that is only one of many reasons I wanted to move. Too many painful memories are connected to my hometown.
“Natalie, you should put your personal issues from your past aside and finally do what is good for you,” Felix declares but I shake my head chuckling bitterly.
“No, Felix. She’s still missing. Do you believe that she ran away like police said?!” I yell hitting him hard on the chest. Warm tears ran down my still hot cheeks after the performance. I couldn’t keep them in and I don’t think I want them to stop. Felix slowly pulls me closer into a hug gently. I grip his shirt as I cry hard on his shoulder. The boy pats my back trying to calm me down somehow but all the frustration I have kept inside come out at once.
I can’t forget about Layla. She is my family. She isn’t something that could be easily forgotten...or something that should be forgotten at all. Now when I see a police car anger boils inside of me. Someone that should protect me turned it back on me when I needed him the most.
“Don’t go home alone today. Call Ethan and tell him that there is this situation again,” Felix states and I nod my head. “You know I would really love to take you home but my mom-”
“I know. You need to take care of your mom, don’t worry...she needs you more than I do,” I say truthfully and pat his shoulder.
“Thank you, Natalie. But call Ethan...or Ryan if Ethan won’t pick up. Ryan always picks up his phone no matter what,” Felix declares going out of the room leaving me alone.
I take out my phone and dialed Ethan’s number. I put the phone near my ear waiting impatiently for the boy to pick up.
I call once more and again, the only thing I talk to is myself. A deep sigh leaves my mouth as I realise the sad truth.
Ethan is really passionate about his job. Passionate enough to ignore my calls from time to time. Of course, he always apologises the next day with a bouquet of flowers and my favourite chocolate. It is tiring but what can I do...he is my boyfriend after all. And he loves me. He may be lacking when it comes to some ideal boyfriend things but there are no perfect people, right?
Few minutes have past and I decide to give up and go out alone. It is already about 10PM and the sky is dark blue. The only source of light are the dim street lights. I hug myself as I shiver from the cold breeze of early spring. The thin black letter jacket isn’t enough to keep me warm.
Nonetheless I make my way to my house. I don’t even try calling Ryan. I don’t want to disturb him. He usually do things that Ethan is supposed to do. I would say...Ryan is kind of a boyfriend assistant? He has helped me so many times already and I don’t even said thank you properly. So I have no right to call him and ask for a lift home at that hour because of a stupid box.
I walk down the empty street trying not to fall asleep while listening to music. After what happened to Layla I haven’t been sleeping well and I have been working hard. Working is somehow distracting me from things I want to forget but they always come back when I lay down on my bed late night.
To be honest I practicaly live alone since Ethan literally lives in the company with the boys. He hardly ever comes back home snd when he does they boy usually sleeps all the time or comes back late at night when I’m already asleep.
I have never complained. In some way I found living alone pleasant. The mornings are peaceful and I don’t have to tidy up my things so my roommate won’t have to yell at me...because I don’t have one. I sometimes feel lonely I have to admit that. But I can’t keep Ethan away from things he loves doing. That wouldn’t be fair.
Suddenly a man wearing all black catch my eye. He walks in the opposite direction so that mean that sooner or later we pass each other. Because I am a kind of a person that don’t trust easily, I turn of the MP3 but don’t take the earphones off.
I have watched too many action movies and after what happened to Layla I started to be really careful while passing strangers late at night.
I feel more and more anxious with every passing second. It always happens in this kind of situations. I just feel unsafe. Not protected. I’m on my own and I don’t know if the man is actually dangerous or not. Usually isn’t but you never know. There has to be the first time one day.
The man gets closer and I notice some gold bracelets on his shoes. He is at least 20 centimetres taller than me. He isn’t fat but he is huge. He would definitely kill me with one just punch.
I carefully watch and listen to his every move. The strange noise of creak hits my ears and I start to wonder what was it. I have never heard this kind of sound before and it was definitely that man who was the source of it.
My heart stops for a short moment as the man passes me by. I breathe out the air I uncounciously have been holding in and speed up my pace. As I am about to turn on my MP3 once again I hear the man stopping in his tracks not far away from me.
This time I take off the earphones and put it in my pocket. The footsteps that once were getting father start to get closer.
Natalie,there are two options. One: he forgot something so he’s going back for it and two: he’s following you.
There is a way to check it. I clearly remember that the man came from my left so I need to go right. Even thought I’m afraid that this is the opposite direction of the city centre. Nonetheless I have to check. My heart pounds in my chest as this time my worries seems to be real.
I do as I have planned it in my head. To my deepest fear the footsteps still can be heard behind me. So he indeed is following me.
I can’t go home because this way I would tell him where I live and there is a chance that he doesn’t know it. And it’s better to keep it this way. However I also can’t turn into some dark alley when no one would see me. That would be a great opportunity for him to attack.
There aren’t any pedestrians on the streets but from time to time some cars pass me by. If that man didn’t care if I could see him, he would have done something to me before he passed me. But he wants me to get somewhere, where there is no one or he just wants to know where my house is. But if that’s the case who is this man?
I know I can lose him only in a place that is full of people. But what place could be fool of people after 10PM on Wednesday. Even pubs aren’t crowded. Hospital would be a good option, but I am at the subburbs of the city. Hospitals aren’t usually placed in that areas. But what can I know? I don’t know the city well and I haven’t been in this area before.
I curse under my breath trying to think of another place. The footsteps don’t get nearer or futher. He keeps the same distance. He doesn’t realise I know he is after me.
It doesn’t make me feel any better and with time I start to feel more pressure. My heart isn’t really good when it comes to stress. So I know I will probably faint after it all ends. I just hope it won’t happen sooner than I want it to. The adrenaline keeps me fully awake and focus on my goal. I don’t even feel tired even though after so much crying at this hour I would probably fall asleep as soon as I would lay down on the bed. But I guess it won’t happen tonight. I just hope I will make it out alive.
That creak sound can be heard again giving me shivers running down my spine.
I don’t know how long I have been wandering in random directions but I know that I am lost. I don’t know where I am at all. I only know the way to the bus station from that building but not from here. I can always use Google Maps but not now. Taking the phone out would be suspicious.
To my bad luck cars start to vanish from the road. It gets more empty with every minute and my follower doesn’t seem to stop at all. He is still behind my back keeping the same distance.
Suddenly, an idea pops to my mind.
I take out the phone and quickly checked the time. 10:30PM. I have been walking for a long time already and I doesn’t even pass any shop. I tried to find my location but GPS doesn’t want to cooperate.
As expected I hear the footstep getting faster so I quickly put the phone to my ear.
“Yeah, Jake what’s up?” I come up with the random name and pretend that I talk with someone. The footsteps slow down and I breathe out slowly knowing that my plan worked. “Where are you?” I continue my talk with an imaginery friend but I slowly run out of ideas. I like talking to myself, but it was a totally different situation.
“How come you end up there?” I ask again and look around looking for help. Oh heaven help me, please...
Suddenly in front of me I find not too big building. It looks old from the outside but it still can be used by people. The light seen through the small windows tells me there is someone inside. Above the door the is written ‘police station’.
A bit ironic but thank you anyway...
“You’re lucky I’m close to this police station and I can take you out!” I say pretending to be irritated by the imaginary Jake and quicken my pace feeling somehow reliefed. A police station is still better than nothing.
When I get close to the station the footsteps go dead. I open the door and walk inside. Not caring about anything I just come up to the window.
The men stands near the building with his head down. The big black hoodie covers his face. I don’t know if he looks at the ground or at the station but I can only guess that it is the second option.
After some time he finally gives up and walks away. I breathe out loudly holding my hand over heart. I start to feel weaker as the adrenaline level gets lower.
Suddenly a different creak sound could be heard again. Gun?
“Who are you?”