The city lights appeared like blurry stars across my vision as I stumbled down the isolated street, grasping the walls like a lifeline. My breaths were short and weak, heaved out of my lungs and accompanied by trickles of blood from my mouth. I felt lethargic. My legs, as heavy as iron, struggled to take the necessary steps and my ears were filled with a constant undulating ringing, throwing me further off balance and shutting out the rest of the world. Blood oozed from the wound in my abdomen with each jerky movement, the knife still in place, acting as a crude and dangerous plug. I wanted to scream. To cry. To beg for help. But my life was slowly being stolen from me, as if each drop of blood was a precious drop of gold for the heavens - or hell.
It had happened so quickly. He had gone from calm to angry in the blink of an eye, and I wasn’t prepared. Mum told me he was bad news. She warned me that he would hurt me. I didn’t listen.
I should have listened.
I’m sorry, mum.
Love. That was what I thought I felt for the man who showed me such attention. Sweet words and gentle touches. His voice was like honey and his face glowing with health. His words always kind, showering me with compliments, telling me how beautiful I was. He showed an interest in what I liked; he listened to me ramble on and on about my favourite bands and the new project I was working on. Even when I was covered in paint and my hair was a mess, he still told me I was stunning. He made me feel so worthy. It didn’t matter that he was a drug dealer, or that he was offering me free samples. It didn’t matter that I was smuggling them into the university for him, risking my place as a student. They weren’t that bad. I had enjoyed them. They made me feel untouchable. As if I could climb the sky and run through the stars without needing the oxygen to breathe. He was always so grateful for my support, displaying his thanks with tender kisses and expensive jewellery. He said what he did made people happy. That it allowed them to fight through life’s hardships. I chose to ignore the extortionate prices he charged, and the gaunt, deranged faces that hung around street corners where he dealt, waiting for their next high. I didn’t expect to become one of them.
The gifts of nights out and quiet dinners in nice restaurants slowly turned into parties with people I didn’t know and exciting new highs. I went from cannabis to cocaine to LSD. I found myself waking up in strange places with people I didn’t know, and he was gone. I had a bitter taste on my tongue most days, and even the best painkillers wouldn’t help my pounding headaches. But, he loved me. He wouldn’t put me in harm’s way. I was happy, you see. All this freedom. Away from home, in a new city able to do whatever I wanted for the first time ever. He was only twenty. Only two years older than me. It was a small age gap, and I took it as further evidence that we were meant to be. I loved him. I loved how daring he was. The way he encouraged my independence. The way he concurred with my drunken complaints about my family. The way he made me feel good about being bad. It was more fun to stay out all night with strangers than to sit inside and focus on that paper that was due next week. I felt better for it. I think. The doubts I had didn’t matter. The nights throwing up in the toilet after too much alcohol and terrifying ordeals in my room alone during a bad high didn’t matter. He didn’t purposely leave me alone to deal with the hallucinations and the vomiting. He was just busy. He had to be.
But then one of his customers died of an overdose. Heroin. He bragged about it, saying it was one of the best drugs to sell because he didn’t need much. It only took a little for someone to enjoy their high and his income was high because of it. When he heard of the accident, he laughed and said that the poor bastard should have been more careful with his dose. Finally, I started to get the chills that should have been there from the beginning. His lack of care, lack of empathy, scared me. I began to wonder if I would end up like that addict, dying alone in an apartment and being found four weeks later when someone realised I hadn’t turned up to classes.
I told him I was tired of the danger and the drugs. He told me that it was too late to back out. I said it wasn’t too late, not yet. He said I was his now, and that he would kill me. I was scared. I was angry. I refused, and I tried to back away. That was the moment. His eyes flashed dangerously and he grabbed my wrist, yanking me close and growling by my ear that he wouldn’t let me leave him. I made the mistake of screaming.
My foot caught on a loose pavestone and I crashed to the ground, the knife driving further into my vitals as I howled with pain. Each rise and fall of my chest was a mountain of effort, each beat of my heart causing death to approach ever quicker. Red stained my shirt and pooled onto the ground and I closed my eyes, almost numb with pain. The ringing in my ears stopped, replaced by a cold and empty silence. The darkness was almost welcomed, an easy relief from the hell that my life had become. The same words echoed in my mind as I tried to call home with nothing but my heart. I’m so sorry, Mum.
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