I inched backwards, staring with wide eyes at the man within the dancing room. The disco ball spun and the music played, and Kenya Campbell and her husband danced in circles across the walls, laughing and spinning and oh-so-happy.
The man, who was tall and big boned, with a rugged suede jacket and blue jeans, stared at the dancing couple. His shoulders went slack as he looked at Kenya.
I shrunk back further, stepping carefully. I had to find a place to hide. I had to get out, get home.
He turned around, and for a brief moment he didn't notice I was there. His deep brown eyes stared at the floor, glassed over and vacant. And that's when it hit me. It was Kenya's ex-husband. He had the same handsome face; smooth brown skin, sharp jaw, and muscular neck.
His eyes flitted up, locking on mine, and we stared each other down. One heart beat, two heart beats. I was a deer caught in the headlights.
And then he pounced. I ran, almost tripping in my haste.
I turned the corner, past the neon, I love my baby, with the golden curtain. I skidded around the corner. He was gaining on me, each step louder as he came closer.
Oh my god he was going to kill me.
Ain't no mountain high enough!
I was going to die.
Ain't no valley low enough!
Ain't no river wide enou—
He grabbed me. I screamed so loud it drowned out Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. He clamped a hand over my mouth.
"Who are you!" he yelled.
I did't know how he expected me to answer. I kicked and screamed and he carried me like a rag doll into the room. The room. He threw me on the bed and pulled a knife from under his jacket.
"How did you know I was going to be here?" he growled.
I scrambled back on the bed as far as I could go and covered my face.
"I-I didn't!" I sobbed. "Please, I didn't know."
"Fucking liar." He grabbed me by the scruff of my turtleneck and shook me. "How did you figure it out?"
"P-please," I choked. "I don't know. I just want to go home."
He raised his knife.
This was it. Mr. Xing would have to explain to my parents why their daughter was in the Toronto Sun for being the latest murder victim. I raised my hands to cover my head and the knife came slicing down. I squeezed my eyes shut.
The knife hit my phone with a crack and skidded off, just missing my neck.
Clang! A shout, and then a body hitting the floor. My eyes flew open and there was Kevin, shaking and panting and brandishing a fire extinguisher.
Kevin ran to me. "Lizzy! Are you okay?"
I gawked at him. My eyes went from Kevin to the man who'd just tried to kill me and back to the fire extinguisher in Kevin's trembling hands. A smear of blood was barely noticeable on the red paint.
Kevin came closer, speaking softly. "Lizzy, I can expl—"
I slapped him.
He stumbled back, clutching his face.
"What was that for?" he exclaimed.
I got up. My legs were so shaky I could barely stand but there was one thing I knew for certain, I wasn't staying here a second longer. I stormed out, took one look at my fried phone, and tossed it away.
Kevin came after me.
"Lizzy, wait! I only did it to help Kenya. I saw him attacking you in my scroll and I knew I could film him, get proof that he's the one who's been sabotaging her exhibitions."
I couldn't answer. Nausea ransacked my body, making my ears ring and my stomach churned, and I couldn't stop shaking no matter what I did .
"Lizzy?" Kevin asked again, and his voice brought me back to earth.
"You set me up?Y-you trapped me in here with that—that—freak, on purpose?"
"It's the only way she can get justice for what he did." He held up his phone. "If I show this to the police they'll have no choice but to convict him. She'll finally get peace of mind."
Tears streamed down my face and I wiped them away. "What did you say to me, Kevin? It makes me so fucking sick when men use women like that. You're such a hypocrite."
"It isn't like—"
"It's exactly like that!" I yelled.
Kevin's shrunk back. "Lizzy, I'm sorry."
"Just let me out of here."
Kevin opened his mouth to say something, but I guess he couldn't think of anything good enough. He dug around in his pockets and pulled out a ring of keys. Then he handed them to me, pointing to one in particular. "This one is to get onto the ramp," he said.
I took it and left.
Once I got outside I could already hear police sirens. I walked faster, vision so blurry with tears I could barely find the pillar. I leaned on the pillar for a second, swallowing back the saliva filling my mouth. Then I took a deep breath and began searching for the portal.
The sirens got louder, closer.
I dropped the keys and felt with both hands. "Come on, come on," I moaned.
Flashing red and blue lights bounced off of buildings and the squad cars parked outside. I heard a door open and a man's voice yelled, "Hey, you!"
He began to jog towards me and then I felt it, the gentle tug on my fingers high up on the stone pillar. I stood on my tippy toes and it grabbed hold of me, sucking me away so that the last thing I heard was, "What the—".
I tumbled out on the other side, back on the carpeted floor of Mr. Xing's storage room. The glowing purple light of the portal ebbed into darkness, and I curled up on the floor and my stomach gave in. Xing must of heard the retching, because next thing I knew Xing had pushed his head into the back of the shop.
"Lizzy!" He hobbled forward as quick as his legs could carry him. "Lizzy, what happen?"
"K-Kevin Wang was an asshole. He took me on a date and then s-set me up with a psycho who almost murdered me," I said. "And you were the one who made me go in the first place."
"I tell you not to trust men, didn't I?"
"You're a man, Mr. Xing."
I threw up the rest of my deep dish pizza onto the floor.
"Up, up," Xing said. "I clean. I make tea."
"I hate your fucking tea," I said, but I got up anyway. I was lying, his tea rocked, and despite everything it was nice to have the little old man pat me on the back. I wiped the vomit from my mouth and the snot from my nose and sat at a little table in the cluttered room. Mr. Xing found a blanket from god knows where. He wrapped it around my shoulders and began to boil water.
"Sometimes thing go bad," Mr. Xing said. "That how it is."
I shivered. The horrible thing was that the worst part wasn't the man trying to kill me, it was what came before. It was dancing with him, eating pizza with him, holding his hand. Don't get me wrong, the near death experience was pretty horrible, but I trusted him.
"He made me feel so special," I croaked. My voice felt like sandpaper, and the sweet taste of stomach acid burnt my throat. Tears trickled down my cheeks.
Mr. Xing turned. "You don't need boy to make you special. You are."
"Thanks," I mumbled.
"I mean it."
Maybe Xing was right.