Rilah kept reliving the morning that Charlie left for days on end. She remembered his desperate look as he tried to convince Florence to let him see Rilah. She remembered Florence's rigid back, blocking the doorway and her shrill voice as she screamed at Charlie, telling him to leave. Her eyes had been bloodshot, her hands shaking as she grabbed a letter from Charlie's hand. Rilah had recognised these signs that Florence had - signs that she was out of cocaine - and had known that Florence would never give her the letter.
For the rest of the day, Florence kept a constant vigil, making sure that Rilah would not escape. Each minute in Aunt Florence's company got worse; she screamed in Rilah's face, she paced, she threw things against the wall, including Rilah.
"Rilah, come here!"
Rilah rushed from the kitchen, where she'd just finished making dinner, and stood some distance away from Florence. She wondered what she wanted and chose to rather be cautious; Florence was not the safest person to be around.
"My contact cancelled on me so you must go and get my stuff. I need it tonight. Count it as your punishment for being with that boy."
Rilah thought of protesting, telling Florence that it was late and dangerous, but she knew it would be more dangerous for her to stay with Florence if she refused to go. She also couldn't very well point out that it would be better if Tyron went in her place - he was too precious to her.
She listened as Florence gave her directions to the meeting point and told her who to expect.
She concluded by pointing a shaking finger at Rilah, "If you mess up, girl, you will live to regret it. You hear me? Hurry up and be back."
The night was quickly approaching and Rilah felt uneasy. She missed Charlie and regretted how they'd left things. If only she could have read the letter, found out what he'd wanted to say, maybe she wouldn't feel so hollow and guilty. She wished she could have let him explain; she had a feeling that Sylvia had been right - that image had been misinterpreted. However, she had no phone to contact him and she hadn't seen Sylvia for days as she'd been under house lock.
As Rilah walked past the woods and into the city, she felt uneasy. She had never been in the city this late and she was stunned by the bright lights, the bustling streets even when it was after seven and the loudness of the city itself. There were just as many pedestrians as people in cars, and this made Rilah feel marginally better.
She walked around buildings, through intersections and arrived at the meeting spot. It was a dilapidated building, redecorated at the front with lights flashing, 'Joe's Tavern'. With her heart beating frantically, Rilah ducked into the tavern quickly and scanned the room. It was dim lit, with gray walls, a large flat screen TV at the centre of one wall and a pool table occupying the centre of the room. Middle aged men with pot bellies littered the place, while younger men, on the verge of becoming like the pot-bellied ones, sat on the bar stools.
Rilah prayed no one would notice her; she was underage and would probably be thrown out before getting Florence's coke. Finally, she spotted the guy wearing all black, with tatooes on his neck and a gold nose-ring. She walked over to him but he gestured for her to sit at a bar stool and wait.
Rilah took a seat but declined a drink from the barman. Besides being underage, she didn't have money to buy a drink. She kept her head down to avoid attracting any attention but then a guy on her left nudged her.
"Hey", he gave her a little smile.
Rilah looked up, and gave him a tight smile.
"Aren't you a little bit young to be in a bar?" He smirked as he asked. He had a spark in his eye, suggesting mischief but he had some sort of warmth in his features
"Aren't you?" Rilah shot back.
He smiled again, this time revealing two dimples. "I'm flattered but I'm sure I'm older than you. So drinking won't give me any developmental issues."
"I'm not so sure about that. Look at all these men", they both looked around the tavern. "Give you a few more months or at least a year in here, and you'll be like them; pot bellied and unactractive."
He smiled again, mischievously and making his dimples deeper. "So you're saying I'm attractive?"
"Um, n-no, I . . . I-I didn't say that", Rilah floundered before she blushed deeply.
"Don't worry. You're not so bad yourself. I'm Jax." He held out his hand.
Rilah shook his hand. "I'm Rye."
"Nice to meet you, Rye. So what brings you here?"
"She's with me", a deep voice said, from Rilah's right side. Rilah jumped slightly from her seat and faced Florence's contact. She had forgotten why she had come here. She turned to Jax and apologized. Jax's face had clouded over, suspicion and anger evident on his face. The Contact slipped something into Rilah's hand as she was facing away from him and grabbed her arm, forcing her to stand. She said goodbye to Jax and walked out arm in arm with The Contact.
As soon as she was outside, she removed her arm from the guy's arm.
"Tell your aunt that I'll be expecting my payment soon or else I'll be visiting her as agreed." With that, he walked away. Rilah released a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. She turned and walked away from the tavern. It was even more darker now and she'd have to walk through an alleyway. She dreaded that journey and her uneasiness grew.
She approached the alleyway with fear and she walked quickly through it. Almost halfway through, she heard a set of footsteps behind her. She quickly looked behind her and saw that a man was walking behind her. No, the man was following her. Immediately, her recurring nightmare came back to her; it was a different alley and also one man but the same fear filled her.
Her heart starting beating like a drum as her walk turned to a run. Her breath was knocked out of her when she was grabbed violently and slammed against the wall. She kicked and flayed, fighting with all her might but the man tightened his grip. The man changed tactic, grabbing her by the throat. Still Rilah fought; she knew how this would end of she didn't do all she could.
Seeing that he wasn't relenting, that the man was much stronger than her, she started begging for him to let her go. Her fear was stronger than in her dream, and she wished she could have avoided this. All thoughts of why this had to happen to her flitted through her mind. Had Florence organised this? No, she couldn't have. She had always told Rilah that if she ever lost her virginity, she'd kill her, or kick her out. She had emphasized the importance of Rilah's virtue from as early as possible, even though she never told Rilah why.
Rilah burnished those depressing thoughts and tried punching the man. He got pissed off and hurled insults at Rilah, telling her to shut up. In a flash, he had a knife in his hand and brought it up to Rilah's neck. She felt it cut her skin and halted.
"There's a good girl. We wouldn't want this to end your life, would we? Now keep still and I'll be nice to you."
Rilah thought of her dream, how much it was turning to reality. This couldn't be her fate, could it? How much more did she have to endure? She saw the man lean into her, closed her eyes instinctively and whimpered as he planted a wet sloppy kiss on her neck.
She thought of what she'd done in her dream and cursed silently when she realised she had no ring. Of course I don't, she thought. Where would I get a ring? She decided to improvise and landed a strong punch to the man's nose. There was the unmistakable sound of the nose breaking. The knife fell away and the man groaned, holding his bloody nose.
Rilah made a break for it and ran but in her haste, she didn't see the can at her feet and she tripped and fell. Just as she got up and started running again, she was grabbed from behind and dragged back to the alley. The man pushed her against the dreary grey wall, and held one hand against Rilah's mouth to curb her screams. He wasted no time in ridding Rilah of her jeans and panties. Rilah heard the fear inducing, disgusting sound of the man's jeans being unzipped. Tears ran down her face as she felt hot searing pain spread in a centripetal pattern, and the fire in her burned out.