‘Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.’
~ Vironika Tugaleva
Astrid kept her head down on the table and stared out of the window into the nothingness. The sun was starting to set in and she was stuck in school. Detention, to be exact. She glanced at the clock and let out a huge sigh. The teacher who was in charge of her left to ‘attend to some important things’, in her words and was supposed to return half an hour ago. She managed to fall asleep only to wake up in cold sweat.
Fire. It had always been there. And so was him. This time though, there were no screams. But the silence only made it worse.
This time, he was alive. Barely.
“It is all your fault,” he whispered. “It is your fault she left. And I will never forgive you for that.” Cold hatred was burning in his eyes and her skin.
She was immobilised. She tried to move as he came towards her. His steps were staggered and unsteady. But he was determined to reach her.
To kill her.
His hands wrapped around her throat as her mouth opened to let out a silent scream. She was nothing but a rag doll now. The pressure increased as he gritted his teeth and squeezed her neck.
“I hate you. I hate you.” He whispered like a mantra. Her eyes were starting to close as she desperately tried to fill her lungs only to fail. She heard one last word before darkness enveloped her senses.
She shivered as she thought about her nightmare. She glanced at the clock again. It was ten minutes to six. She looked at the door and then back at the clock. Quickly making up her mind, she grabbed her bag and walked out without looking back.
She was walking down the busy streets, ice cream in her hand, her hoodie secured and her identity hidden. She had already called her aunt and told her that she would come home late and not to worry. She did not mention her detention and her aunt did not mind as long as she was back before ten.
It was about half-past eight when she decided to end her night stroll and headed home. She was about ten minutes away from her home when she realised someone was following her. She quickly assessed her surroundings. It was pretty dark with only a street lamp poorly illuminating the street which was completely deserted except for herself and her followers. She knew more than one person were after her because of the heavy footsteps and haggard breathing that she heard. They seemed to be men and she slightly turned her head back and saw them out of the corner of her eyes. There were about five.
She quickly calculated her next move. Taking them head down did not go pretty well with her current state. Though she had taken down people their size, five at a time seemed too much. She subtly quickened her pace with the hopes that they would not notice as they seemed drunk. But then again, luck was not on her side. They were too close to her so running was not an option. With a sign, she realised she had to use her fists.
She faced him and they came to a halt. All of them looked the typical drunkards with rotten teeth, greasy hair and haggard looks. One even raked his eyes over her form and she felt her temper rise. Definitely breaking his nose and disfiguring him, she decided.
“Why are you following me? Don’t you all have other things to do,” she asked them, barely concealing her irritation.
“Come on. Don’t be like that. We can have a good time.” one of them sneered. “And don’t even think of running. Or screaming. You will just waste your energy.”
He leaned in, grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him. She looked at him straight in his eyes and smirked. He looked taken aback and she whispered to him. “Trust me. I won’t be the one running. Or screaming.”
Before he realised what was happening, she pulled back her arm and punched him straight in his face. His drunken mind was not able to take in the impact and he passed out with a broken and bleeding nose.
The other men looked at him in shock and swore at her in anger. They all charged at her as she dropped her bag on the road and got into position. She quickly took in their movements and calculated their next moves.
She felt one hand reaching for her hair and she grabbed it and twisted it behind his back, kicking him from on his back only for him to tumble face-first on the gravel, clutching st his hand in pain. Two down. Three more to go.
The remaining drunkards came to their senses and attacked at the same time. Two of them grabbed her arms and prevented her from moving, while the third one reached into his pocket and pulled out a pocket knife. She swore out loudly only for them to laugh at her mockingly.
She did not let any emotion show on her face as he grinned like a maniac. Her hoodie was down revealing her striking features and pace neck.
“Quite a pretty one, you are. Too bad, you did not behave. Or else it would have been less painful.”
He suddenly punched her in her stomach causing her to gasp in pain. For someone drunk, his blows were pretty strong. He grabbed her face and dragged the knife across her throat, not deep enough to kill her but enough to cause her pain.
“You should be grateful that I have decided to leave your pretty face alone.” He had definitely lost it. Next was her arm. And then the other. All she wanted was a distraction. A small distraction to take his eyes off her for a second and then she could get herself free.
As if her prayers were answered, flashing lights stopped her assaulter for a moment. A car. But that was enough for her to break free. She quickly raised her left leg and kicked the guy on her right straight in his nuts. Having her arm free, she twisted her body and punched the other one and knocked him out. Pain shot like electricity through her body at every moment but she hardly paid any attention to it. Four down. One more to go.
Her assaulter had now realised that she had gotten herself free and attacked her right away by slapping her straight across her face, sending her tumbling on the ground. The knife was on his other hand and he reached towards her to grab her. Blinding rage coursed through her as she launched herself at him and kneed him in his gut. He rolled on the ground, groaning in pain as she raised his foot and brought it down sharply on his face. The sound of his nose crunching and his loud wails of anguish filled her with immense satisfaction.
She realised the car had come to a stop and heard the sound of the door opening and closing. She pulled her hoodie back on her head and wrapped her arms around herself. Her neck and arms were still bleeding. Her check was stinging in pain as she turned around to see who had helped her even without realising it.
Her icy blue eyes were met with bottle green ones filled with shock and surprise as he stared at her open-mouthed. Her own eyes widened, expressing the same emotion that he did as she realised who it was.