I walked in the door and locked it as I took a deep breath. Without knowing it, I leaned against the door to catch my breath. I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that this man, that I’ve never met before, was chasing after me, yelling at me to ‘stay out of it’—whatever that meant. What was he talking about? Nothing ever happened in my life that was exciting enough to have someone tail me down with threats. People didn’t even know my name at school. Without knowing it, I felt myself go to my brother’s bedroom.
My big brother and I have always been tight. The down side to that was he was overprotective. He always had to intimidate all my friends—boys or girls—not to hurt me. Sometimes, they got scared out of being my friend that way, because Liam was, after all, the wrestling champion.
I found my way up the stairs like a zombie and swung open Liam’s door without knocking. Of course, he was hunched over his desk staring menacingly at his Calculus text book. My dad worked a deal with him that if he kept straight ’A’s, he could join wrestling. I guess he didn’t realize what he got himself into because he was always huddled around his desk. I stepped into his room and, without hesitation, plopped on his bed. He swiveled around in his massive work chair and faced me.
Before he could say anything, I mumbled, “You would not believe the day I’ve had.”
Liam studied my face with a concerned look before blubbering, “What happened? Are you alright?”
Remembering where I found him, I looked up at his concerned face and let my words settle with some forced laughter in them, “Aren’t you supposed to be doing… whatever it is you are doing?”
His face softened a little, then let out a light laugh, followed by his reply, “Nah. This is just calculus. Who needs this crap in their life? I mean, seriously? When will I need to know about Taylor Polynomials? They teach us stupid things is school. So, talk away.”
I let that one slide, looking back at what just happened and knew he could help me.
I let in a deep breath and, knowing he was probably going to get mad at me for not letting him drive me home, I told him about my run-in with this dangerous stranger. His face hardened with my every word, and by the time I was finished, it felt like I was sitting before a wild bull. Trying to delay the lecture I was about to get, I handed him the lanyard I swiped with keys dangling from it. I had almost forgotten about them. I tried to use it as a way of getting out of trouble from Liam.
“I hoped he had an ID on it or some way of verification so I could tell the police or something, but no such luck. I think I just gave him more motivation to find me.”
Liam took the keys and stared at me. His face was stoned with anger as he spoke, “El, are you hearing yourself right now? You just got attacked! And for something you don’t know what for. I know you’re going to scream at me, but I’m not going to let you walk home alone again.”
“Well, lucky for me, you are not my father, so, sorry, but this is a free country, Liam. I’m going to do what my heart so desires.” I responded, matter-of-factly.
“I’m serious, El.” He responded, a fire burning in his eyes.
“So am I, Liam. I’m not going to sit back and let this guy steal my life. You know this is what I love to do, and I’m not stopping.”
“I know you never like to lose arguments, but this one is important. Please. This is the one thing I’m going to ask of you. I’m begging. This guy is dangerous, and we have no way of verifying who he is. Just wait until we find him, okay?”
I sighed at the concern in Liam’s face, “Liam. It was thanks to you I got out. How bout this? You can come with me on my daily runs, and when I want to walk, I will have you on the phone at all times. Deal?” I knew I wasn’t going to win this one because it had to do with my safety, but I wasn’t just going to give up like that.
Liam sighed, thinking of my proposal. After a while of me biting on my lip, he finally opened his mouth, “You aren’t giving in for anything else, are you?” He waited until I shook my head before sighing again, “Alright, deal. But only if you let me show you a few more self-defense moves.”
He had already shown me enough to be considered a ninja, and I tried not to use the too abusive ones. I can’t stand the thought of hurting someone—if they were doing it to me or not. Before he changed his mind, I stuck out my hand, “Deal.” I pronounced as he grabbed it tightly.
Liam started to rise from his seat, “Well, let’s get started on these lessons. How about this time, I’ll teach—”
“Uh-uh.” I said, recalling where I found him in the first place. “You still have Calculus to do. After you finish, we can do it,” I said as I pushed lightly on his chest, forcing him in his seat.
“But, El. Seriously, I don’t get this stuff and I need to get my mind off it for a minute.”
“Ha!” I exclaimed, “I’ve heard that one before. I know you probably just opened your book, considering you haven’t even been home that long. Besides, if you need help, I’m always here…” I said, enthusiastically.
He sighed in defeat, “I guess that’s what I get for having a genius as a sister. Alright. I’ll get finished here, then we’ll head to the basement and we’ll do what I want for a while.”
I left at that and headed next door to my room. Our rooms were right next to one another and, although my father doesn’t know this, when he was on a business trip, we grabbed some hammers and put a hole in the wall separating us so we could spend many sleepless nights talking. We had to cover them with posters, but, with all the time we were able to spend together, it was worth it.
I walked into my bland room and plopped on my bed. I looked around; studying it to make sure it was as I left it. As always, my bed underneath me was unmade, dresser cluttered, and my small desk in the corner the only clean thing in here. I sat up from my bed and looked at the mess staring back at me in the mirror. My normally wavy dirty blonde hair was a mess, scattered unorganizedly around my shoulders. My skinny frame looked discombobulated as my clothes hung tightly to my body—no thanks to my unscheduled run this afternoon. And last of all, my eyes. My eyes were a strange color—a dark purple. Usually, they gave out a calm sensation, but now, they looked wild and untamed. Also to blame by my afternoon encounter.
I grunted as I marched over to my closet to pull out some more comfortable sweats I could train in later. Just as I pulled on a loose shirt, I heard the front door open. Knowing it was one of two different groups, I listened at the door to see which one it was. When I heard children’s laughter, I knew it was my younger siblings back from school. Compared to most people, I had a large family—having two older brothers, two younger brothers, and one younger sister. We all rely on my Father nowadays because my mother abandoned us a few years ago. My poor sister was growing up strong and very much like a tom-boy with her brothers to boss her around. I’ve tried to do girl things with her—hair, nails, make up, dress up—but she is too far in the dark side to care about those things anymore.
I tugged my baggy shirt down as I stepped out of my room. I turned the corner to find all three of my siblings. David was the oldest of the three, being in seventh grade. To be honest, I think he was done having to put up to the kids’ tantrums and having to ride the bus with them. He was still very patient, though. David went downstairs to his room—no doubt to play video games—and Shawn and Lucy came upstairs.
As they climbed the stairs, Lucy started yelling my name. Shawn wasn’t too far behind, hysterically yelling my name as well. I was laughing when they finally made it to me feet, panting. Lucy rose up a slip from her hand and placed it gently in mine. “You in trouble again, Luc? What did you do now?” I teased her.
Lucy laughed then replied, “No, it’s for you, silly. It’s your turn this time.”
Curious, I looked at the wrinkled paper resting in my hand. I opened it slowly, and read the sloppy handwriting:
‘Back off if you care about them.’
I immediately shuddered and my hand started trembling.
“Lucy, who gave this to you?!” I demanded.
Lucy smiled her innocent smile again. “The nice man who gave us these suckers. He said you would know who he was when we gave you the paper.”
I ripped the sucker from her grasp and threw it somewhere else. Shawn had one identical and I did the same. “Hey!” they yelled in unison as I threw the candy. This creep had the guts to come after my siblings? What a stalker! I screamed at myself. I felt so stupid! Of course he knew where I lived! He had that guy go check if I was home. I shouldn’t have EVER put them in harm’s way!
I stared at my brother and sister for a second while I recollected my calm so I wouldn’t scare them. “This man is bad. He wants to hurt us, okay? Next time you see him, have David call Liam or me immediately and run, okay?”
Shawn was staring at me as if I had three heads. “But, he was nice to us. He gave us candy.”
I nearly yelled at Shawn, but I knew that would just scare him more than necessary, so instead, I crouched and got to their level. I grabbed one of each of their shoulders and tried to remain calm. “I know, but I need you to trust me, okay? This guy is not nice—if he has candy or not. Just believe me, okay guys?”
Shawn and Lucy looked at each other for a second before responding, “Okay, Ellie.”
I took a deep breath and tried to calm my thudding heart. I didn’t care if this guy had an entire army; I was going to make him think twice before he confronts my family again. I let go of the kids’ shoulders and stood back up. “You have homework?”
They both groaned in response, and I took that as a yes. As they retrieved their backpacks, I marched towards Liam’s room again. I barged in again to find Liam playing with his phone. Too angry to care, I told him, “I want that training now.”
“What made you change your mind?” He asked as getting up from his chair.
“I’ll tell you later. Now, I just want that training.”
Liam accepted the answer and led me down to the basement where the workout room was. This was pretty much Liam’s life down here, but my punishment place. Whenever anyone got in trouble, their punishment was another lesson with Liam.
The room was not any larger than a bedroom, but Liam fixed it up and messed with it one summer until it worked as his own practice room.
For the next few hours, Liam helped me blow off steam and learn more self-defense. My muscles ached, but adrenaline pumped through my veins to keep me punching. Once the kids finished with their homework, they came to watch us, like always. Even David came out of his cave to watch us train. Whoever this guy is, he’ll be sorry he ever crossed my path.