Dan and I had been left in charge to lock the shop up as Steve was away visiting family. My fingers routinely flicked through albums, placing them back in alphabetical order. It was a task I had grown familiar to after customers made snap decisions and placed cases back in the improper places. The shop floor was empty, Dan checking and sorting orders out in the back room.
When the sound of the shop door echoed I didn’t take much notice, picking out another album to move. Strands of hair were tucked back, clearing my vision.
“Sorry, we’re closed!” I called out behind me.
I scuffed a little further along the aisle, searching for the “T” section. But my ears quickly came to distinguish the pounding of heavy footsteps over the base of the song currently playing. A strange feeling floated throughout my body. It was an odd sensation, something telling me whoever it was had no intention of leaving.
I tensed. The greeting normally brought a tingling to my entirety, with the raspy words being spoken from the mouth of a curly haired male. My bottom lip trembled as my stomach dropped. The clatter of plastic made me jump, the album I had held falling to the ground by my feet. My hand shakily rose to my mouth, attempting to conceal the petrified breath escaping my body in sobs. I could sense the heat emitting from the figure standing behind me.
It wasn’t Harry.
When I remained stationary, my wrist was painfully gripped before my body harshly spun. My fears were confirmed as I stared up at the man who Harry had defeated in the boxing ring. I had no chance. I could tell he used his menacing frame to his advantage, intimidation was his aim as he stood uncomfortably close to me. The dark ink swirling on his arm was the distinctive feature that had caught my attention earlier on in the week. I had absolutely no desire to be alone with this man. All I wanted was Harry.
“Aren’t you pleased to see me, Bo?” Scott smiled.
The curve of his lips held a sinister edge, evoking a chill across the surface of my skin in goose bumps.
“Fuck off.” I spat, yanking my arm back.
Scott deeply laughed at my feeble threat.
“There’s that feisty spark.” He taunted.
Brown eyes flashed down to my chest. Disgust flooded me, believing he was staring at the skin exposed by my low cut top; but it surprised me when his fingers reached for the chain around my neck. My fearful vision scanned over to the door, an escape that seemed to gradually be becoming an impossibility.
Harry was under ten minutes away. If I ran, I could get there in five.
“This his?” Scott enquired with a tilt to his head.
His question snapped my attention back to the looming male. My smaller hand protectively snatched the pendant from his clammy ones, tucking it safely into my top. He seemed to find the action amusing.
“Maybe I could give it back to Harry…something to remember you by, hmm?” His voice deepened as he spoke the last words.
I stepped back in terror, my body bumping into a display. My heart was thumping, pulse racing as my mind worked in overdrive. Scott was going to kill me. I quickly realised the location had been planned, knowing it would destroy Harry to be so close but know nothing of the sinister events taking place just a couple of roads over. I’m sure Scott knew our arrangements; maybe he would prolong this torture until Harry came to pick me up from work. He wanted to end my life in front of the boy I loved.
Scott’s smile was sickening, he was enjoying this, taking pleasure in the fear he was evoking. My jumbled thoughts turned to Hayley. How could anyone even consider being in a relationship with the awful man currently pinning me with his gaze. Scott’s arm jutted out as I attempted to make a run for it. The length of my dark waves became tightly wrapped around his hand, harshly tugging it back to force a strangled cry from my mouth. The action was agonising, my vulnerability becoming even more of a disadvantage.
“Scream for me, Baby.” Scott darkly spoke, a smirk crossing his lips. “I want Harry to know you screamed out for him…you wanted him to save you.”
Tears were slipping down my cheeks, my hands gripping on to his wrist as he forcefully pressed my back to his chest. My hair was used as leverage, tilting my head to the side as his dipped down.
“Be a good girl. I want to hear you scream out for him.” Scott encouragingly whispered.
I had no intention of complying to his demands. The power Scott craved was granted to him through fear and intimidation. I would not be his next victim. Instead I gritted my teeth, stomping my foot mercilessly on top of his. He grunted in annoyance as I struggled free, sacrificing the strands of hair left between his fingers as I painfully pulled away. My scalp prickled with the action. The taunting smirk made an appearance once again, Scott apparently liking the situation panning out. Maybe he wanted a fight.
“This is going to be fun. But let’s say we mess up that pretty little face of yours first, eh?”
In that moment a wave of resistance pulsed though me. I was fed up with constantly being made to feel physically powerless in the male dominated world I had become a part of. My arms quickly rose in defence, just as Harry had taught me, shielding my face. Scott’s shock mirrored mine as I managed to weakly block against the fist that would have knocked me flat out. I staggered back but didn’t fall. My forearms throbbed with the fierce contact but my action was enough of a distraction for me to inflict some damage. My feet stayed planted to the floor, Scott’s daunting frame stalking closer. The instant he came within touching distance the heel of my palm roughly forced upward to his face, catching his nose at an odd angle. My eyes widened as I withdrew my defensive posture, blood was pouring from both nostrils, Scott’s scarlet blood dripping down the inside of my wrist.
“You little bitch!” He aggressively spat.
I screamed as the back of his hand lashed out across my face with enough force to knock me to the floor. Large black boots flickered into my vision. I hastily removed myself from the vulnerable position, avoiding the kick that was intended for my stomach. I didn’t waste time in scrabbling up, ignoring the stinging of my lip and climbing onto the cash desk. My body clumsily collapsed the other side of the tills, picking up an old vinyl that lay unwanted without its sleeve. I panicked as my pursuer angrily moved towards me, my arm drawing back and flinging the object. I hadn’t aimed for his face, so I was a little surprised when I just clipped his right eyebrow. The gash was substantial, blood trickling down. Scott spat out a curse.
My plan was to escape out the back and run to Harry. Even if I couldn’t find him, I was sure to be safe in the presence of his friends who worked with him at the gym. But before I could make a dash for it my arm was roughly yanked, my hip colliding with the counter between Scott and myself. He was a complete mess, tilting his head to the side to spit out the blood that had infiltrated his mouth from his nose. My lip was throbbing, arms already bruised but I was in much better shape than him.
My head snapped around to find Dan rushing through the back door wide eyed. I had forgotten Scott and I weren’t entirely alone. I could see Dan desperately assessing the situation, vision darting from my petrified face to the hand gripping my forearm. Seconds passed in a blur as the painful touch was released, Dan tugging me behind him as he shouted.
“Get the fuck out!”
I felt disorientated, peering around the masculine shield in front of me to see Scott wiping the blood from under his nose with the back of his hand. His gaze was swarming in anger, annoyance that someone had interrupted his murderous plan. My breath caught in my throat as he held my vision captive.
“You better keep your mouth shut.” Scott spoke through gritted teeth. “Or I’ll kill your boyfriend as well.”
“Who the fuck was that?!” Dan’s voice raised, following me around the locker room.
It had been about five minutes since Scott had left. My emotions were in disorder, clouding my rational judgement and tugging away from Dan in fear as he caught my hand. I received a sympathetic look as he peered down.
“Is that your blood?”
My only thought was of disgust as I dropped my gaze to the drying red liquid upon my skin. I stretched my palms out in front of me, hastily turning them from side to side. It was Scott’s blood. I felt dirty.
“Help me wash it off.” My voice trembled as I stumbled over to the toilet door. “Dan!” I desperately called.
He was by my side in seconds, rolling my sleeves up and guiding my hands under the tap. I stood and sobbed as he scrubbed me clean with soap and water in the small wash room. The cool water was chilling my already icy skin. A towel was tugged from the rail, Dan gently drying off the moisture. Droplets still shimmered on his hands as his right cautiously rose to my face. My chin was tilted upwards, his thumb brushing over the marked area on cheek; it was sure to bruise.
“Please don’t.” I whimpered.
My split lip was sore, I knew it would take a while to heal. But my attention was diverted away from the stinging sensation as warm fingers carefully curled around my hand.
“This is to do with Harry, isn’t it?” Dan paused. “That guy who did this to you, it was because of Harry.”
I already knew full well Dan disapproved. They hated each other.
“You have to tell him.” He abruptly spoke.
“No.” I vigorously shook my head. “Scott said..” My voice trailed off, not having the courage to finish the sentence.
Dan’s expression hardened as he stared at me, head dipping lower to my level. His warm breath fanned over my face and I had no other choice but to hold his eye contact.
“He’s no good for you, Bo. He’ll end up hurting you because of who he is…Harry’s dangerous.”
“No.” I whimpered.
My fingers slipped from his as I refused to accept the words falling from his lips. Did he expect me to leave Harry? I recognised Dan’s frustration, reaching out to me before I could pull away.
“For goodness sake, Bo. Look at your face.”
I sharply inhaled as Dan’s fingers gripped my chin once more, angling my face to the mirror. It shocked me to absorb the image of a broken girl in front of me. My eyes were watering, desperately trying to prevent the threatening tears. The spilt on my bottom lip was tender, dried blood smudged around the area. My cheek was pink, hints of darkness tinted into the skin.
“Do you see what he’s caused?”
My smaller hand gripped his, ripping it away. I had no desire to stand and endue his voice repeatedly scolding me. I’d had enough of it.
“Stop it!” I cried, taking us both by surprise. “You don’t know anything!”
Dan appeared shocked by my outburst, my body backing away into the locker room. I hastily scooped up my bag, shoving my hair back over my shoulders and quickly walking to the back door.
“You can lock up.” I spoke quietly before making a hasty exit.
I jumped as my phone began to vibrate, fumbling in my bag before pulling out the device demanding my attention. My head darted around, a figure catching the corner of my eye. The unassuming young guy continued to walk along the path the opposite side of the road as I took in a deep breath. My level of anxiousness had sky rocketed, finding the task of crossing the street a little challenging. I attempted to keep my head down, brushing my hair over to the side in an attempt to conceal the bruising on my cheek. I hit the green button, raising the phone to my ear.
An involuntarily breath was tensely inhaled, tightening my chest. The last person to greet me with those words had taken his anger out on my face.
“Bo? Baby, you alright?” His husky tone was confused.
I gulped down the sob attempting to escape.
“I-I’m fine.” I unconvincingly reassured.
Harry paused for a second, contemplating my answer before continuing.
“I’m looking forward to seeing you.” I could hear his smile through the phone. The sound of his voice had already started to magically work on my nervous state. “Is it still alright for me to pick you up?”
But my eyes quickly widened in panic, I couldn’t let him see me like this. Scott’s threat echoed in my mind, I wouldn’t let anyone hurt Harry. I had to protect him; and if that meant withholding certain information from him, then so be it. My thoughts swirled as I raked my brain for a believable excuse, anything to keep a distance between us.
“N-No, I’m..going to a friend’s house.”
“Oh ok.” The disappointment in his tone was heart breaking. “Well, I can take you.” He suggested.
“No, Harry..I’ll walk.” I spoke quietly. He was unaware I had already made a dramatic exit from the shop.
“Are you sure you’re alright? You sound upset.”
The voices in the background had faded slightly, removing himself from the busy environment to talk to me in a quieter setting.
“It’s nothing, just a stressful day at work.” I lied, completely downplaying the events that had taken place. He didn’t need to know.
“Was it that dick from the shop?” Harry tightly asked. “I’ll kick his arse if he’s upset you.”
My eyes squeezed closed, typical Harry. If he’d of seen my face I knew he would do more than just throw a few punches. The thought chilled me. I continued to make my way home, turning to walk along the path in the direction of my house.
“No, you don’t have to kick anyone’s arse.” I lightly laughed.
My small smile was mixed with salty droplets stinging against my wounds.
“Good.” The amusement clear in his voice, quickly changing the subject. “I want to cook for you.” Harry paused. “Well..when I say cook, I mean picking up the phone and ordering a take-away. But it’s the thought that counts, right?”
“I’d love that.” I smiled, momentarily getting caught up in his sweet gestures before reality came crashing down. I painfully gulped, staring at my reflection in the window by my front door.
“I have to go, Harry.” I spoke, struggling to hold my composure.
“Ok, I’ll talk to you later, Baby.”
“Bye.” I whispered.
I ended the call, unable to keep a grasp of any sort of equanimity slipping through my fingers. I barely made it within the safety of my house before collapsing to the floor, sobbing as I curled my knees up to my chest. My back pressed to the hard wood of the front door, releasing my fear in petrified tears.