Chapter 2: Money troubles are a bitch
Carrying my baseball bat with both hands, resting it against my right shoulder and my eyes wide in alert, I flick the light switch of my star bedside light and scramble out of bed. Creeping along my own floor, I swiftly tip-toe towards my kitchen, towards the noise. It could just be the pipes again, or I could be robbed again. My grip around the bat tightens as the sound gets louder.
"Meow," a faint noise purrs and I immediately flip the switch to be greeted with a fluffy ginger cat scurry to claw at my feet. I let out a huge sigh of relief although the gnawing on my skin begins to draw blood. I pry the cat from the floor and release it out the backdoor. It came in through the battered window I had to board up with cardboard a week ago and now that's been broken through. I duck tape the cardboard to the window again, sealing it as best as I can to not let the cold night air flood in.
As the sun beams through the cracks in the drapes, falling onto my face, giving me some much needed warmth, I roll out of bed. Dressing in my turquoise waitress dress, I fix two front strands of my hair behind me into a princess braid. I open up my front door, cautious of my unabashed neighbors. The apartment to the left of mine houses a stripper who brings home a guy at least once a day and animalistic moans and groans resonate through the thin walls. The thump of her bed also creating a similar rhythmic thump in my head. I get through a pack of painkillers every fortnight. Any more and I'm afraid I'll start becoming hooked on the pills.
A hand wraps around the top of my arm, squeezing and dragging me into the apartment to my right. He spins me around and shoves me up against his flaky wallpapered wall. The little flecks fall into my hair as he slams me up against it again, keeping me there. He breathes right in my face, his head angled downwards at me.
"Belle," he whispers, the corners of his lips upturned. He gropes my ass with both his hands under my skirt and I gasp, ultimately breathing in some more of his air. Sliding my panties down roughly, one hand starts to unbuckle his belt.
"Will you please stop?" I ask in an incredibly small voice that I consistently scold myself for being so weak. In response, he chuckles darkly, taking out his erect length and stroking it. "I have work." He scoffs, narrowing his eyes at me in confusion, still with his cunning smirk. He stares at me deeply, grabbing my jaw sharply. "I'll come back after," I say innocently, in a soft voice to not aggravate him. My chest heavily pulses up and down as he searches my eyes pushing his member against my skirt to get closer to me. My hand moves to cup his cheek and I feel him lean into it slightly.
"Where do you work?" he questions.
"I'm a waitress at the cafe on 50th," I lie, pouting a little, pleading with the gods this would work. I'm definitely moving after work. I don't need anything that's not in my bag, it's contents being my ID, purse and cheap cell. I sniffle slightly, maintaining eye contact. I would be more scared if this was the first time something like this has happened, however the devastating anxiety and panic attacks I get consume me for months. I'm trembling, my nails scratching at my own skin in anxiety. I tend to scrape and scratch anything I can whenever I want to breakdown.
Then he releases me. His arm breaks away from the side towards the door and I rush through it, hurtling down the stairs and flying out of the entire building.
I contain my tears as I scurry to work, still reeling from what just happened. He's only been living there for two weeks and I'm going to have to move for the fifth time this year. It'll be to another crummy apartment that I can never promptly afford and they'll be another incident to scare me away, whether it be the neighbors or there's a flood or a police raid of the whole building. All of those have happened.
I prayed that my life would be looking up, and indeed, I'm living a more free life. Maybe it is better. Much better than before. I was drowning, I could never come up for air, was suffocated by my father. And now I'm out of the water, I'm breathing again. But still barely.
As I enter the diner, J's animated face smiles at me and I attempt once again to push everything that has happened last night and this morning down deep inside.
"Morning, Baby Belle," he greets, hugging me to him. A tear slips through my grasp, and as one falls, they all do, drenching my cheeks. When he feels dripping onto his shirt, he pulls me back and his eyes widen at the sight. He drags me into the storeroom, holding both my shoulders as he gets on one knee to be closer to my height. "Belle, what's wrong?" I shake my head frantically, almost scratching my eyes out as I harshly rub the tears away from my face. "Belle?"
"Nothing's wrong. I'm just tired," I sob, covering my eyes with my hands in embarrassment. I hiccup a little and his hands grasp mine, yanking them away from my eyes.
"Belle, tell me what's wrong. I know something happened," he commands in a strong but gentle voice.
"I h-have to m-move," I stutter, my eyes darting everywhere but his face.
"My n-neighbor, he's... he... dragged me into h-his place a-and..." I find it difficult to say anything more, trying to steady my breathing.
"He what, Belle? Did he touch you? Rape you?" he coaxes in a soft tone.
"H-he... groped me and-and I told him that I would come b-back after work. H-he asked where I worked and I-I lied. I c-can't go back. He'll..." He stands up and tugs my head into his chest, stroking my hair. I cry into his shirt before deciding that enough is enough. No more tears. He didn't even manage to do anything yet, and I have to be grateful that he didn't, that he let me go. I pull back from J and breathe through it, pushing it down like I've done so many times before. This is no different.
"You can stay with me, okay? I can go get your stuff from your apartment," he tells me, pressing his lips against mine. "You don't have to work today."
"I'll just find a new apartment, you don't have to take me in. I'll be okay."
"Until you find the apartment, you're staying with me," he states, looking at me sternly as to tell me not to refuse.
"Okay, but I'm working," I state, composing myself. I nod to him and give him a forced smile. I exit the room with him following behind and his dad calls him over to check something.
"Wow, I didn't know you were like that," Katie exclaims, wiggling her eyebrows at me. "You and J? I knew that whole innocent thing wasn't really you."
"Nothing was happening," I mutter, shuffling away to wait on my first table.
By the night shift, I'd worked for fourteen straight hours, and everything this morning has almost been forgotten. J and Harry, the owner, had told me I should take a break but gave up after the ninth hour. At closing time, there's only J, Harry and I left in the diner, me wiping down tables as the two dispute over the register.
"How the fuck are we coming up with that?" J hisses to his father, smashing his fist on the table.
"10K, it's not possible," Harry responds, shaking his head in frustration.
The bells above the diner door rings and I glance up to see five large men dressed in blacks and greys and navys. They are covered in tattoos, a few with scars on their faces and most with dark features.
One man peaks my interest, giving me the inability to look away. His piercing honey eyes and black messy hair compliment his dark aura, his scruff and devious smirk making him more intimidating, yet alluring. He could be a male model if he didn't reek of darkness, it flooding out of him. He's the only one wearing a suit among them, a black suit with a black shirt.
He's yet to see me, focusing his gaze on J and Harry. He holds an air of dominance and forces submission upon everyone he meets. Harry appears as though he wants to wet himself, his knees knuckling under him a little, making him clutch the counter. J looks slightly less domineered, however his face twitches in the annoyance of the men's presence.
The men take a seat at a table, the suit man leaning back in his seat as he gestures Harry to take the last seat at the table.
"Let's get a drink, huh?" suit man announces, his voice deep and smooth, the undertone incredibly dominating and commanding. "Waitress?" I scurry over, J's eyes going wide and as the suit man actually looks at me, his eyes widen too, a smirk growing on his face. "Get me six black coffees and then come sit on my lap, gattina."