***Please check out my new story - Spell Bound - A story about revenge and punishment
Alice stood on the corner on Monroe Avenue, staring at the house four doors down. Outwardly, there was nothing terrifying about the property—a three-bed red brick terrace similar to others in the row, and not dissimilar to her own.
The butterflies flitting about her stomach were due to the inhabitants.
She knew where Adam Hargreaves lived because everyone in this town knew where Adam Hargreaves lived, along with his brother Mike who was equally well known—though for different reasons.
Taking one last deep and shaky breath, Alice forced her feet to move. The path to his front door had previously been littered with old painting equipment and various broken appliances, but it was oddly clean and tidy today.
‘Maybe he won’t be in,’ Alice thought as she moved closer. ‘Or he won’t hear me over his music.’
The thrum of bass-heavy music was faint but unmistakable. It ceased when Alice pushed in the small white bell.
The door opened a few seconds later and Adam Hargreaves stepped out on to the porch.
Looking Alice up and down with what looked like disdain, he asked, “What do you want?”
“I—I can…erm… can I talk to you? Please?” Alice stuttered. She could feel colour rising in her cheeks when he snickered at her and had to refocus, telling herself why she was there.
‘I’m doing this for Jamie,’ she reminded herself in her most stern inner voice. She pictured her little brother huddled on the bathroom floor in tears to rebuild the anger and determination that had fuelled her visit.
“Really?” Adam scoffed. “First he sends his Mum to shout at me… now you?”
“What?” Alice frowned in genuine confusion. Mum hadn’t mentioned anything of the sort, but it now made sense that Jamie had been upset with her. “You made it ten times worse,” he’d shouted at her.
Alice raised her hands, as if in surrender.
“I’m not here to start on you, not that I could hurt you even if I wanted to,” she promised. “I just want to talk to you.”
That was a blatant lie. If Alice had been proficient in any sort of combat sport, she would have happily kicked seven tonnes of crap into the guy. Punched his face until he was crying on the floor like her brother. Realistically, her three karate lessons weren’t going to do much against the guy like Adam.
Unfortunately for Alice, he wasn’t one of those ‘all mouth’ kinda bullies. At six foot two, he stood a head taller than her brother, and his physique suggested he worked out on a regular basis whereas her brother forced their mum to write notes to get him out of P.E.
Adam screwed up his face into a half-smile, looking Alice up and down as though considering letting her into his home. His eyes lingered on her breasts for a second, making her glad she’d worn a tight top and push up bra. It never hurt to use assets to get ahead.
“Please?” she pushed in a meek voice.
With a loud sigh, he pushed the door open and stepped back, indicating her to go inside.
His house that weird ‘not like my house’ smell. They had dogs inside, one of which ran up and tried to jump up at Alice. She happily petted the Staffordshire terrier until Adam shouted “Roxy, down!” at her and she skittered off in the opposite direction.
It felt weird and awkward being in someone else’s house for the first time, especially under these circumstances. Alice looked about the kitchen, trying not to stare at the mess like a judgemental prick.
The kitchen was definitely missing a female touch. There was a mountain of plates stacked up by the sink, piles of laundry almost falling into the dogs’ bowl and pretty much everything was covered in a layer of grease.
Only the kitchen table was clean and tidy, with only a pair of scales and a few tiny green crumbs. The smell indicated what the crumbs were, but Alice feigned ignorance.
Adam grabbed a can of diet Pepsi from the fridge and sat at the table but didn’t offer her a drink or a seat, which was hardly surprising. Taking the initiative, Alice pulled out a seat and sat opposite him.
“So?” Adam asked.
“Well, I wanted to ask you if you would stop picking on my little brother,” Alice asserted.
“Yeah?” Adam nodded and grinned.
“Yes,” Alice began, trying to remember the speech she’d practised on the walk here. “I feel like you might not understand the impact your actions are having. I’m sure if you could see how much pain and anguish you’re causing you might—”
“Oh,” Adam interrupted. “So you don’t feel like I’m just an insecure prick—”
Adam pulled his phone from his pocket and read, “With small dick energy, who has to tear apart other people to make himself feel better?”
“Erm,” Alice swallowed, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks again. “I… didn’t specifically… I mean… It says bullies in general. Wait… you follow me on social media?”
“Yeah,” Adam scoffed. “You’re hot and you post pictures of yourself in a bikini. Your account isn’t set to private so why wouldn’t I follow you?”
‘He thinks I’m hot?’ Alice thought, raising her brows.
Alice tried to think up an excuse for the angry post she’d written but came up blank. Luckily, the brother barged in and started talking to Adam. He looked nothing like Adam. Short, slender, and covered in tattoos. Even his face had ink; something her mates said only criminals and rappers got.
“You got that sorted?” Mike asked Adam. He glanced over at Alice, gave her a scary glare and asked, “Who’s she?”
“Oh, nobody important,” Adam waved his hand. “I told Dave he could he pay on Friday. Figured he was good for it.”
“I trust you brother,” Mike said. He looked back at Alice, eyes full of suspicion. His aura made Alice nervous. She looked down at the table and began to poke at the little crumbs.
Mike walked around the table, picked up the weighing scales and flashed her another dirty look. When he turned back to Adam his whole face changed, from scary drug dealer to loving brother in the blink of an eye.
“Please can you do the dishes? I know you did it last time, but I have work and—” Mike started.
“Yeah, yeah, no worries,” Adam said.
‘They have a less dysfunctional relationship than most families,’ Alice thought. She was guilty of moaning whenever her mum asked her to do chores.
“So, you were asking me to do a favour out of the kindness of my heart while simultaneously slagging me off for being an irredeemable piece of shit?” Adam said, turning back to Alice.
“Look, I’m sorry I posted that. I was angry, okay? I’d just found my brother in floods of tears because you and your shitty mates had shaved half his hair off,” Alice began.
Mike tutted at his brother. “What you bullying kids for, bro?”
“Oh right,” Adam scoffed. “You don’t mind me bullying when it’s some little scroat who owes you money and you get me to pour boiling water on them because your too soft to do it yourself.”
Alice felt her eyes widen in shock and had to make an effort to readjust her facial expression.
“Don’t be fooled,” Adam said to Alice. “He comes off the big man but he’s a pussycat really.”
“Don’t tell her that, man,” Mike laughed, looking embarrassed. He was grinning widely enough that Alice could see most of his front teeth were missing. The guy wasn’t much to look at but always seemed to be dating the hottest girls.
‘They must be into the bad-boy type,’ Alice thought. She was beginning to lose hope that this boy would listen to reason or care about the impact of his bullying.
When Mike walked off Alice continued, deciding to switch tactics. Bitching at him would only make things worse. Reasoning with him wasn’t going to work either and it wasn’t even because he was too dumb to understand. He knew what he was doing. He just didn’t care.
“Please will you leave my brother alone?” Alice asked, making puppy dog eyes at him. “Please? I don’t think he can cope much longer. I’m really worried about him. You wouldn’t want to be responsible for him hurting himself, would you?”
To her surprise, Adam laughed. “It’s not my fault. I didn’t make grow up to be such a pussy.”
“Fine, whatever, it isn’t your fault. But you can just not do it anymore. You could decide to stop being a di—a… bully,” Alice said, mentally kicking herself for almost calling him a dickhead.
“I could,” Adam said with a smug smile.
“Please?” Alice asked. “Please would you? Please?”
“Begging won’t work. Sorry,” Adam told her. “You could try bribing me, though.”
Alice felt like her heart had dropped out of her chest. His statement knocked the wind out of her, and she wasn’t sure how to respond. What could she bribe him with?
“I… I don’t have any money—” Alice started to stammer out a response, but he interrupted her with a deal.
“I’ll tell you what. Make me a picture like the ones of you in a bikini… but topless. Do that and I’ll leave your brother alone for a week,” Adam offered.
“Just a week,” Alice whined.
“Oh yeah, and just so you know… this will escalate,” Adam said.
Alice didn’t even want to ask what he meant by that.
‘Is it worth it?’ she wondered.
“Oh, and if you say no, I’ll take offence, and since I can’t hurt a girl, I’ll take it out on your brother,” Adam sneered.
“What?” Alice cried. “That isn’t fair. Don’t do this. Please. Please don’t do this. It’s blackmail.”
“Aww,” Adam cooed. “That is my best offer. Take it or leave it.
“Will you show anyone? If I give you the picture—” Alice asked.
“Pictures. Plural. I want more than one,” Adam demanded.
“You won’t show anyone, though, right?” Alice pleaded.
Adam sat back, lacing his hands behind his head and smiled at Alice, watching her struggling with the decision. He seemed to be enjoying herself.
“I won’t show anyone,” Adam said. He could be lying, but there was no way to know. If she did this, she would be taking a big risk no matter what he said. The pictures could end up anywhere.
“Okay,” Alice sighed. “What’s your number?”
When Alice pulled her phone from her pocket Adam reached over and grabbed it from her hands.
“Passcode?” He demanded.
“It’s 0704,” Alice said. At this point, what was the point in trying to cling to privacy?
After putting his number in he passed the phone back.
“You have until 10pm to send the pictures,” Adam said. “If I like them, I might even make sure nobody else hassles your brother.”
Alice nodded meekly and got up to leave.
“Aren’t you going to thank me?” Adam asked.
Alice had to bite her tongue and grit her teeth to keep her true feelings from bursting out and ruining her brother’s life.
“Thank you,” Alice said.
On the walk home Alice began to have doubts. Her dream of getting into a good university might go out the window if googling her name brought up half-naked images. When she arrived home her mother and brother Jamie were watching television together. Jamie looked up as she entered and gave her a weak smile. His hair, which he’d been growing for years, was now shaved up the sides but still had some length on the top. In all honestly, he looked better this way, but his tear-marked face suggested he didn’t agree.
When Jamie breathed in the air came in short, spluttered bursts—the aftereffect of prolonged crying.
“Your hair looks good,” Alice tried to assure him. “It suits you.”
“Thanks,” Jamie said. He tried to smile despite the fact he was quite obviously dying inside.
By the time she’d gotten inside her room and locked the door, Alice was sure she was doing the right thing.