Chapter 1: Fated Meeting
I peeked at the time on my phone after snoozing off the alarm for the third time. I was supposed to be awake by the first alarm, finish my breakfast by the second, and get out of the house by the third. But here I was, still in bed after the third alarm finished ringing.
Jolting out of bed, I ran towards the closet room after freshening up, pulling out all the jumbled-up clothes to find a suitable one to wear. Nothing was up to my mood; I couldn’t find a nice dress.
As I was getting late for the ‘Happy Kindergarten’ and my job might end up being in the risk zone, I pulled out a maroon jumpsuit and changed into it from my pajama shorts quickly.
Since I didn’t have much time to tie my hair, I left it open and munched on a granola bar on my way out of the house.
I ran as fast as I could to get a cab. Why could I never get up on time? This last moment of haste sucked. I knew the principal, Ms. Sophie, wouldn’t fire me, but she might end up scolding me. The kids I taught only listened to me, so Ms. Sophie couldn’t lose a precious pearl like me.
“Can you drive me to Happy Kindergarten?” I asked the cab driver, who shook his head in denial, making me pout. “Why not? I am already late.”
“Even if I drive you there, it will take an hour because of the rush hour,” explained the driver. “If you walk from here, it will take a maximum of fifteen minutes. So choose your way.”
I frowned and started walking on the walkway, leaving the cab behind.
Traffic in Las Vegas, ugh.
What luck of mine! I had to wake up late today. Why couldn’t I wake up? Maybe because I hadn’t set up five alarms. Next time, I had to set five alarms. At least, I would wake up by the third or fourth one then.
I was walking with my shoulder bag, texting Ms. Sophie that I was going to be late because I got stuck in traffic. I couldn’t tell her I woke up late to avoid getting an earful from her.
While I fastened up my pace, my black curls were repeatedly falling over my eyes. Sometimes due to the strong wind, it would cover my face, which was annoying. I was already in a hurry and this kept slowing me down; it was starting to get really bothersome now.
Glancing to my left, I saw the vehicles were stopped due to traffic. I stopped walking and looked for a pencil in my bag. Since I didn’t have the time to bring a hair ribbon with me, a pencil would be helpful to tie my curls into a bun.
Once I found a pencil, I looked at the black Bugatti La Voiture Noire a few steps ahead of where I was standing. Next to me was a school bus, so if I tried to look in the window of the bus and tie my hair, I would find a bunch of kids staring at me, which would be funny and awkward at the same time. I walked a few steps ahead and turned to the window of the Bugatti.
I could only see the driver, which meant the passenger seat was empty, so I could fix my hair by looking in the window of the back passenger seat. I looked at the black tinted window and saw my beautiful reflection.
Well, traffic came in handy because this car remained in its place, so I had time to tie my hair. I took the pencil and started tying my black curls into a messy bun. Once I was done, I smiled proudly, mumbling, “I look great now.”
All of a sudden, the window rolled down, making my heart leap in fear. I thought no one was in the backseat, but I was proved wrong when I found a pair of gorgeous green eyes glaring at me.
An awkward silence filled us. I wanted the traffic to end so that his car would move forward while I could just let the earth swallow me. I just tied my hair and smugly called myself great in front of a stranger.
Luck really wasn’t favoring me today.
“Uh... I am sorry. I thought no one was sitting in the passenger seat, so I just tied my hair,” I spoke at once, looking at him, getting nervous.
I thought this handsome stranger would scold me or laugh away at my foolishness, but he surprised me.
He closed the window, right on my face without uttering a word. So basically, he rolled down the window, glared at me, and closed the window.
Oh, my God. That’s such an insult.
No one dared to never reply to me—stranger or not. But this man right here had the audacity to not only ignore me but also make me feel insulted.
Feeling the steam coming out of my ears, I tapped on the window after sucking in a deep breath.
Let’s see how long you can ignore me, mister.
When the window didn’t open, I knocked simultaneously on it a few more times until the glass started rolling down once again.
The familiar handsome stranger looked at me once again, this time with a blank expression covering his face.
He didn’t know my entire story, so he might think I was a crazy woman. I had to explain to him that he was thinking wrong because I hated people making wrong assumptions about me. I cleared my throat and started speaking, “I woke up late today, so I was getting late for my job. That’s why I didn’t have the time to tie my hair. I just did everything as fast as I could to be less late for work. I thought I would leave my hair open, but it kept getting on my face. If it kept blocking my vision and I tripped, I wouldn’t be able to reach the class on time, rather I would end up at the hospital, but that’s not where I work. You see, I work as a kindergarten teacher. Do you know about ‘Happy Kindergarten’? I teach Mathematics to the little kids there.”
“The point, lady?” he asked with his thick soft voice, seeming disinterested.
“I just wanted to say, don’t think I am crazy or something like that. I had set three alarms, but I failed to wake up. I know it’s my fault, I should’ve set five alarms,” I mumbled, getting confused by my own talks. Why did I tell him everything in the first place? I should just apologize for my foolishness and continue walking.
I turned to him, only to find the stranger rolled up the window once again.
How dare he? It was like cutting me off in between my talks. I have never been insulted this much, that too twice by the same person. He was painting me out to be a petty and crazy person.
Placing a hand on my hip, I was about to knock on the window once again, but the traffic was released and the car drove off, leaving me alone on the walkway. It was the third insult from the same person, that too on the same day.
I let out a disappointed sigh.
Weird people live in Vegas. I am the only normal person struggling here.
When my eyes fell on my wristwatch, my eyes grew as wide as saucers. I was late for sure now. I could’ve reached on time, but I was so engrossed in talking with that stranger that I forgot I had to go to work.
All of it was that handsome stranger’s fault. If he hadn’t rolled off the window when I was talking, I would have just said a few more things and would have been on my way to kindergarten. But no! He had to test my patience.
Shaking my head with a sigh, I took a cab and went to work. The traffic was clear now, so there was no point in walking anymore.
After having a tiring day, I changed into my tracksuit and wore my headband, ready for a jog. I loved jogging at night, because of two reasons. One was, that I enjoyed the silence of the night, and the other reason was, that I could never wake up in the morning, that too for a jog.
Jogging was best for me to release stress, so I would go out for a job every night, come what may.
I got out of my house and locked the door properly. Keeping my phone inside my pocket, I started to jog on the sidewalk, slowly making my way towards the park that was over two miles from my house. I jogged five times around the park, and after I was done, I was on my way back home.
While drinking a sip of water from my hydro flask, I noticed a small lane that I had never seen before. The lane seemed like it could take me to ‘Happy Kindergarten’ directly. Was this a shortcut way? If it was, I could use this lane each time I would wake up late for work.
I had to check and be sure whether it was a shortcut or not. I walked to the lane; it seemed dark. One streetlight was broken, and the other one was working but the brightness was low. Did I make the right call by walking in here at this hour? It was almost midnight, and no one else seemed to be around.
Not feeling good, I decided to go back, but when I spotted the small colorful building from a minute’s distance away, I realized it was Happy Kindergarten. How could I have never seen such a shortcut lane before? It could’ve saved me so much time!
From now on, I will use this lane.
My chain of thoughts was broken when I heard the sounds of footsteps. If it was one person, it could’ve been okay, but hearing the footsteps felt like there was a group coming toward me, and a group at this time meant a group of boys, more like people working for a gang. In short, I wasn’t safe here anymore.
Mom, please rescue your daughter, I chanted in my mind and started going back to the main road. Suddenly, someone yanked my wrist, making me gulp in dread. I hesitated before turning to see who was holding my hand.
A man, who seemed to be of my age, which was above twenty, was smirking at me. “Oh, my, I’m in luck tonight. What a hot chick!”
Soon, I was surrounded by a group of men, which consisted of five people.
“Such a beauty should be pleasing me, instead of running away,” another man commented, making me want to slap him senseless.
However, I had to keep calm and act smart. If it was one man, I could have fought, but I was nothing against five men. I decided to stay quiet, silently praying for someone to rescue me.
One man caressed my upper arm, making me step back in disgust. His touch felt like cockroaches crawling over my arm.
As if sensing my disgust, he grabbed my arm tightly, making me wince in pain. “Oh, this beauty has the audacity to feel disgusted, that too by my touch,” he spat out in anger, while I closed my eyes, having faith that I would be rescued. My mom’s prayer would save me, I knew it. “But she won’t feel disgusted anymore once I start to please her. Trust me, love, I have pleased plenty of women, by force or not.”
Plenty of women? He has raped plenty of women, and I was going to be one of the victims as well if no one rescued me.
Oh, dear God.
Rape was the scariest thing that could happen to a person, and I didn’t want to be a rape victim. But how would I run away from five muscular men? I couldn’t even scream for help because this was a deserted lane.
I looked around at the men surrounding me, but the one who was holding my hand, if I pushed him away, others would be distracted for a while. At that time, I had to run as fast as I could. If getting raped was written in my fate, then I wouldn’t give up without a fight. I had to try, come what may.
Without a second thought, I wriggled free from his grip, pushing him hard against the ground. As expected, the other four men glanced at him, so I started running as fast as I could, without looking back. I could hear them shouting, “Come back, you whore!”
I didn’t turn around, my eyes stinging with tears. Mom, help me, I prayed in my mind.
While running, I collided with someone’s chest, putting a brake on my running. I glanced up at the familiar green eyes that held a dangerous vibe. He was the same stranger I met in the morning. I didn’t know why I felt a gush of relief splashing over me after seeing him.
“You fucking bitch!” one of the men yelled.
Jumping in fear at the sudden voice, I hid behind the green-eyed stranger, grabbing his arm with my trembling ones, mumbling, “Save me.”
The stranger placed his other hand over my shaky hands and steadied them, saying, “Don’t worry. You have me.”