“Welcome to J’s Diner,” I greeted with a smile, looking down at the old couple that sat in the booth. Mr. and Mrs. Crowley were regular customers, who came here every Friday night for what my boss liked to call their ‘date night.’
They were really old customers as Jackie, my boss, had explained. They were sweet people who tipped rather generously, if I don’t say so myself, so I didn’t mind waiting for them to place their order.
They were regulars, sure, and you would expect us to know their orders by now, right? I mean you’d think that the moment they walked in, we would place their order since they came here every Friday, but that isn’t the case for them.
Let me explain.
The Crowley’s are a bit weird when it comes to eating here. Whereas some people have their regular orders that never changed, the Crowley’s, well they liked to change their order weekly, as in; they never ate the same thing twice in a row.
Shocking, right? To me, that is disturbing considering I can’t remember what I had for lunch, and I’m freaking fourteen.
The clearing of a throat caught my attention and brought me out of my daze to find myself staring into the stony gaze of Mr. Crowley. A blush instantly coloured my cheeks as I apologized profusely for my inappropriate behaviour.
“I uh- I- I’m so sorry. May I take your order?”
Mr. Crowley stared back with an unchanging expression as I glanced away and in the direction of his wife, hoping to find some friendliness there.
Mrs. Crowley let out a small chuckle, as our eyes met, “Oh sweetie, don’t mind him.” she said with a smile before placing their order for the evening. I quickly wrote it down and with a shy smile, and another apology, I turned and headed over to the counter and handed Jackie the slip of paper to pass over to the kitchen.
Taking a second or two to myself to get over my little embarrassing moment, I finally turned and headed back over to my other tables. A sweet smile plastered on my face as I walked around and made small talk with some of our regulars.
I wasn’t really one for small talk, but I did it to pass the time as it was a requirement to get good tips. Surprisingly though, it was fairly slow this Friday afternoon, but I knew that it would pick up closer to dinnertime. Something I wasn’t in a rush to get to.
Looking around the diner, I noticed I had covered all my tables and headed over to stand behind the counter near Jackie.
Jackie was a petite lady with short black hair, a heart-shaped face, chocolate brown eyes and a bow-shaped mouth. Dressed in black jeans, a white t-shirt and a cherry red apron, this was her standard wardrobe when it came to working in the diner every day.
“Getting along with more people, I see,” Jackie commented, her lips stretching into a grin. A blush crept up onto my cheeks once more, as I shook my head before dropping my gaze to look at my sneakers.
“No- no- no, it’s only for the job,” I mumbled, trying to hide my flaming cheeks.
A chuckle escaped Jackie as she pushed my chin up so that I looked into her chocolate brown eyes, which shone bright with friendliness. “I know, but at least you’ve come out of that little shell of yours,” she said with a small smile on her face.
I shook my head slightly to free myself from her hold, before nodding and dropping my gaze to the ground once more, my cheeks flushed again.
“Well, somewhat?” she said with a shrug.
Looking up from under my lashes, I sent her a grateful smile, “Yeah,” I answered sheepishly, not used to getting compliments, “Thanks for that.”
“Would you stop with that?” she chastised with a shake of her head, pushing me slightly in a playful manner before turning towards the register where a customer was waiting to pay.
“Nope,” I answered, popping the ‘p’.
A bell went off behind me, drawing my attention to it, to find Greg standing at the kitchen window with the Crowleys’ order in his hands. With a slight smile at him, I grabbed the tray and went about handing out the order to the elderly couple. Following that, more orders started to come to completion and I kept walking back and forth between the kitchen window, my tables and the counter.
Bustling about, I continued to hand out food and drinks to my waiting customers, while also stopping at certain tables to make small talk.
Once I felt that everything was in order and that every single one of my customers were happy, I turned and headed over to the counter where Jackie was standing, only to find her chatting with Grace.
Grace Lancaster, my best friend in the whole world, sat across the counter from Jackie with a smile etched on her lips. She was fairly shorter than me with long brown hair, a soft heart-shaped face, hazel eyes and a tanned complexion. And, even at the age of fourteen, she was already rocking perfectly manicured nails.
Grace was very friendly and someone who is easy to talk to, I mean we wouldn’t be best friends if she weren’t. She could ferret out gossip from even the darkest of places; so it really wasn’t a wonder at all that everyone knew who she was. She had a reputation of her own, beyond that of her famous parents as she was always the first to find out about most things and it wasn’t soon after that, that I knew of those things too.
I mean what are best friends for, right?
Truth is, Grace isn’t really a gossip columnist. Rumours travel around West Mount like wildfire and what Grace does is, she finds out the truth behind them. So in essence, she really is just a truth finder.
“Oh My God, Leah!” Grace shrieked the moment she saw me. Wincing at her high-pitched voice, I glanced around the diner to find many people looking our way, unable to stop the shy blush from colouring my cheeks.
“Seriously, calm down,” I hissed, glaring at her from under my lashes, as I tried to shrink away from their gazes.
“Sorry,” she whispered, rolling her eyes. “Seriously though, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Grace said, finally talking normally. And from the way her face lit up like a freaking Christmas tree when she spoke, I knew that she was about to spill some juicy gossip.
“Oooh, what won’t we believe?” Jackie asked from behind me, her sudden appearance causing Grace to jump in surprise.
“Oh nothing really, Jackie,” Grace said, waving her off.
“Hey, don’t you dare shut me out. Spill,” Jackie commanded with a hard look at her, a playful glint shining in her chocolate brown eyes. Leaning on the counter to get closer to Grace, Jackie waited patiently.
A chuckle left me at the sight, as Jackie was well into her thirties and married, but still acted more like a teenager than I did.
“Go on Grace, out with it,” Jackie coaxed, as Grace glanced between us before shrugging.
“You know I’ve been pining over Jesse for a long time?” She asked.
“Yes,” Jackie answered for both of us, a giddy smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
“And I thought he never really noticed me... or maybe he did notice me sometimes... or could I be-”
“Grace,” I said in warning, as I cut off her rambling. “Get to the point.”
“Oh,” she said, blushing slightly as she looked between us again.
“Spill it girlie!” Jackie hissed, her patience wearing thin.
“Well... He finally asked me out,” Grace announced with a giddy smile on her face.
It took a moment for Grace’s words to sink in, but once it had, she and Jackie shrieked in joy. All the while, I stood there with an irritated look on my face, while customers looked on in surprise and wonder.
A blush slowly worked its way up my neck and onto my cheeks as I noticed that no one was looking away. No, they just continued staring, and with all the attention on us, I couldn’t help but shrink back behind the counter and hide my flushed face.
“Would you two stop that,” I scolded, glaring up at them. Taking a moment to compose themselves, they finally looked up to see the amount of attention they had drawn to us before turning to me with apologetic smiles.
“Sorry.” They said in unison, as I shook my head.
“This is why I can never go anywhere with either of you,” I said in irritation.
“Sure, we both know you can’t go anywhere without us, or me anyway,” Grace said with a knowing smile.
“Oh hush up,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“You know it’s true,” Grace teased with a cheeky smile.
After a bit more bickering between the three of us, Jackie returned to the register as I excused myself to go help some customers who had just entered the diner. As I took their orders, I glanced up to notice that it was soon approaching dinnertime, which meant that business would soon pick up.
Grace stayed and chatted with us between orders as Jackie and I handled the rush of people coming in and out of the diner. A group of boys around our age came in and just had to sit at a booth I waited on.
I stiffened at the thought of waiting on them, while Grace smiled at me like a Cheshire cat, since I had a major crush on one of them. I, however, wasn’t going to do anything about it, because come on, it’s me.
We kept up our conversation through most of the rush until Grace got up and left. Leaving Jackie and I alone to handle the rush, without someone to keep us busy. The rush started to die down soon after Grace left, and it wasn’t long after that, that things started to slow completely.
Glancing up at the clock above the kitchen window, I noticed that it was almost nine in the evening. And with only a few customers left, Jackie disappeared to the back while I started wiping down the counters as Greg had already closed the kitchen for the night.
Our customers slowly dwindled down to nothing as it reached past nine, leaving only Jackie and I left to close up.
“Tonight was good.” She commented as she came to the front.
“I’d say, considering all the good tips I got,” I said jingling my apron.
A laugh escaped Jackie, “Yeah, I noticed. You were on fire tonight,” she said with a sweet smile.
“Now you’re just teasing me,” I said, turning to hide the blush that crept up onto my cheeks once more.
“You stashing that with the rest?” Jackie asked, and I nodded in answer.
Taking off my apron, I took out my tip money and handed it to Jackie, who placed it into a small packet. With that, she headed to the office in the back of the diner, where she would place it into the office safe with the rest of my saved up tips.
Unlike the rest of the staff, I took my tips home monthly instead of everyday, keeping it locked up with the rest in the office safe.
As Jackie locked up the back, I wiped down the last table. With one last glance around the diner, I grabbed my jacket and pulled it on just as Jackie came around to the counter.
“Night Jackie,” I called as I headed for the front door.
“Good night,” she called back, as I opened the door. I waved at Jackie with a small smile before leaving and heading in the direction of my home.
Stuffing my hands into my jacket pockets, I walked down the road. Keeping my eyes and ears open for anyone that might still be walking around at this time of night.
Paying close attention to my surroundings, I listened to any and every sound.
I walked these streets every night, and usually they were fairly safe. Sure, there were people here and there, but it was very seldom that I would have any trouble.
I lived about ten blocks away from where I worked and I walked home every night, so tonight wasn’t any different from any other. All I had to do was mind my own business and I would be okay. Dropping my head a little lower to my chest, I hoped to make myself appear small and insignificant, so as to not draw attention to myself.
I had walked two blocks from J’s Diner when I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. The feeling setting off goose bumps along my skin. “It’s nothing,” I whispered into the night, as I carried on walking, though in my gut I could feel something wasn’t right.
Ignoring the feeling, I picked up the pace just as another shiver ran down my spine. The knot in my stomach tightened even more as I glanced around me, keeping a vigilant eye on everything.
“It’s nothing,” I repeated once again, but even as I said it, the feeling inside me worsened, which just led to me picking up my pace even more.
I glanced back for a second to see if someone was following me, but the road was clear. With a sigh of relief I turned, only to walk straight into someone.
“Uh- sorry,” I mumbled as I dropped my head even further and moved passed them.
“What’s a pretty thing like you doing walking around alone?!” A deep voice commented behind me, while I ignored them and carried on walking.
My heart stopped however, when I heard footsteps behind me a moment later, “Oh come on, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t be walking alone at night. It could be dangerous!” The man called as he followed me.
My heart rate picked up at his words, and it felt like my stomach had just moved up into my throat. I kept calm, or as calm as I could, and just kept telling myself that it was nothing, as I repeated it over and over in my head.
“A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be walking alone!” The man called again, his footsteps sounding closer than before.
A cold shiver ran down my spine once again, as panic rose within me. My mind finally grasped the truth of the situation, and that was that someone was following me.
“No,” I whispered to myself, shaking my head and trying to deny what I clearly knew to be true.
But, I was fooling myself.
The truth finally caught up to me a moment later, as his arm snaked around my waist and his hand clamped over my mouth, stopping the scream that wanted to escape me. A second later, I found myself pushed up against a brick wall with someone pressed against me, their hot breath on my neck.
“I said a pretty girl like you shouldn’t be walking alone!” The man growled.
“Let me go,” I said in a soft whisper when he removed his hand. I thrashed and pushed against his hold, which was futile since he was stronger than me, but I needed to get out. I needed to escape, as that was the only thought running through my panicked mind.
A chuckle left him at my fight as he took me in, “Well aren’t you a feisty one,” he observed, pushing his body firmly against mine, causing me to still slightly. “I like feisty,” he commented, his acrid breath fanning over my face. The clear smell of alcohol on his breath telling me all too much about what he wanted from me.
He wasn’t a Good Samaritan who wanted to walk me home safely as he had portrayed. No, he was anything but that.
“Let me go,” I whispered once again, continuing my struggle against him.
“Stop struggling darling.” He cooed, brushing my hair out of my face so that he could caress my cheek. I couldn’t give a damn about what he wanted as I continued to thrash and put up somewhat of a fight.
“I said stop struggling.” He repeated, his hand going from a soft caress to an anger-filled grip as his hand came around my throat and gave a squeeze in warning.
My eyes widened at the threat as I stopped struggling, fear gripping at my heart.
“Good,” he breathed into my face, as he pulled back slightly to look at me.
“You sure are pretty,” he said with a smirk, caressing my cheek once more, his eyes filled with lust, pushing his body closer to mine.
“Let me go,” I said in a clearer voice, hoping to hide the fear that now ran through my veins like poison.
“Oh I don’t think I can do that,” he said with a chuckle, “You’re too pretty to let slip through my fingers,” he said in, almost, a whisper as he leaned forward and pressed his lips to the space between my shoulder and neck.
“Please let me go,” I begged, as he pushed closer to me.
My mind raced. He had threatened me and I had stopped fighting but he wasn’t going to let me go. There was nothing I could do to stop him, but I didn’t want this to happen. I couldn’t let this happen.
Yet, I had stopped fighting. Why had I stopped fighting?
What was wrong with me?
“Oh the things I will do to you,” he whispered into my ear, before licking it. A cold shiver ran down my spine at that, as my fight or flight kicked in and I once again began to thrash and push against this strange man.
Panic and fear pushing me to get out, pushing me to fight back.
“Let me go!” I struggled.
“Let me go!” I shouted as I pushed, punched and wiggled.
“Oh baby, you don’t want me to hurt you now, do you?” He asked in a clear voice, as he once again caressed my cheek, but the threat was clear in both the gentle action and his words.
I was starting to make him angry as I kept up my fight, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to escape, no I needed to escape. I couldn’t and wouldn’t be a victim.
I just couldn’t.
“Let me go!” I screamed.
At that, his body stiffened against mine. He pulled me away from the wall and before I could think, his fist connected with my cheek, my head turning to the side at the impact of the violent blow.
“Stop struggling and I won’t have to hurt you again!” He growled in my ear, pushing his body against mine, as he grabbed my arms and squeezed them in warning, as if his fist hadn’t been warning enough.
“Please let me go,” I begged in a whisper, feeling tears starting to form.
“Shut up!” He growled, before pulling me forward and slamming me back against the wall. A shot of pain ran up my spine at the impact and reverberated through my entire body. I was smart enough to have bent my head forward though, or else I would have slammed that against the wall too and then I would be in deep shit.
This action though, gave me a little room to move and when I noticed my opportunity, I struck. I thrashed, shoved, punched and pushed in an attempt to get out of his hold and away from him. Finally, I had my leg between his and I took my shot by lifting my knee into his groin.
The breath he sucked in told me I had hit my mark, as he stepped back away from me.
I saw my chance and took it, pushing off the wall, I ran.
“Bitch!” I heard him call after me a second later, but I didn’t dare look back as I ran.
I wasn’t even sure where I was running to, all I knew was that I needed to get away from him and fast. I turned the nearest corner and kept on moving, needing to get away. My heart raced as my blood pumped in my ears, panic and fear racing through my veins.
I thought I had gotten far but I was wrong, I think I got about a block away when I heard him behind me again. “You’re going to pay for that!” He shouted, as his arm once again snaked around my waist and he pulled me to his body. I thrashed against his hold but before I could scream, he clamped his hand over my mouth.
He pulled me behind another building, much like the one before but this one was slightly more lit up than the other. It was still dark though and no one would dare to look in and see him attacking a girl.
He didn’t care this time as he wrenched me back and pushed me to the ground. I slammed into the ground with a loud smack, my back crying in pain as my head throbbed, having knocked it. A moan left my lips at the impact as stars danced in my vision.
“Oh baby, you’re gonna be moaning for me in a bit,” he said in a sinister tone, as a second later I heard the sound of a zipper.
My eyes widened at this as I tried to clear the daze, feeling the man near me more than seeing him. I felt his hands on my body but I couldn’t seem to bring myself out of whatever state I was in.
“P- P- Please let me go,” I begged, pushing myself away from him.
“Let me go,” I whimpered, trying to drag myself away.
“Please. D- D- Don’t do this, please,” I begged as my tears finally began to fall.
He chuckled at my sad attempts to get away, stepping closer each time I tried to move. When he finally became tired of my weak attempts, he reached down and pulled me closer by my legs. “No please!” I said again, as I carried on trying to move away, though each time he would just pull me closer again.
“Shut up bitch!” He growled, not caring to hear my pleas as he punched me once more, leaving me to groan in pain.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” he said with a dark chuckle.
“No, please,” I begged, pushing myself away again.
“I’m so going to enjoy… Shut up!” He growled again, his rancid breath once more close to my face as he hit me again.
“No...” I begged again, turning away on my hands and knees as I tried to crawl away from him.
He pulled me closer by my legs once more, this time tearing pieces of my clothes off as well. The ripping sound of my clothes making me flinch.
“No.” I begged as he stepped closer.
“No.” I sobbed as he ripped my pants with a knife I hadn’t known he had.