‘What’s your name?’ I ask, pushing her hair from her face and finding a tidy cut over her eyebrow. My teeth grate, and she doesn’t answer, her head heavy and rolling. ‘Can you hear me?’ I ask, dropping to my knees and putting down my bag. She still doesn’t respond, so I work fast but carefully, getting her into the recovery position. ‘I’m getting help,’ I tell her, dialling for an ambulance.
But before the call connects, two hands grab me from behind and yank me back, shoving me aside with a pissed-off grunt. I yelp, shocked, and my phone topples and smashes against the ground. My only light is now gone, leaving me blind and panicked. I scramble back on my arse, my feet sliding across the dirty cobbles of the alley. Fear rips through me so fast it takes my heart rate from steady to wild in a beat. It’s a familiar fear, and that only amplifies my panic.
I can’t see a thing, but I can smell, and my nose is assaulted by the stale stench of old sweat and alcohol as flashbacks attack me, beating down the high walls that I fight to keep intact. A low whimper reminds me of the woman who is barely conscious next to me, and I reach for her, trying to find her fingers so I can squeeze some reassurance into her.
The sharpest of pains bolts through my hand when it’s callously kicked away, and I cry out, bringing it to my chest protectively and sucking back my tears. I’ve just walked straight into danger. What was I thinking? How could I be so stupid? But part of me can’t be sorry for venturing down here, for trying to help. At the very least, I hope I’ve halved the blows the woman next to me will be subjected to. After all, I can take them. It’ll be nothing I haven’t felt before. I close my eyes and see the monster who tormented me, and then his hand as it flies through the air towards my cheek.
I wince, my face bursting into flames when a hand, one that’s not from my memories, connects with my cheek. But I beat back my tears, locating the grit I called on many years ago but haven’t needed since, the strength and fortitude to just survive. I shut my mind down and wait for the next hit, breathing in more calm.
‘You should have kept walking, bitch.’ His foul odour is starting to get down my throat, making me heave, and my body jerks forward when he grabs the front of my coat, yanking me up, breathing all over me. I open my eyes, not only to remind myself that I don’t know this man, but because his face is close and I might get a glimpse in the darkness. Teeth – dirty, rotten, jagged teeth are the first thing I see, chapped lips grinning around them. ‘Tryin’ to help the poor slag, huh?’
I look up and see pure, filthy evil in his eyes, his pupils dilated. I’ve seen eyes like these before. They’re eyes full of cruel intentions. I keep my mouth shut, knowing I shouldn’t fuel the situation, but when his grubby hand reaches for my thigh and strokes up toward my stomach, and then to my breast, I whimper, my fear reaching new heights. I can take a few slaps, but that. No. No, I can’t go there again. I’ll fight him with all I have. ‘Please no.’
‘Hmmm,’ he hums, his nasty grin widening. ‘Think I’ll have a taste, since you seem so—’ He’s cut off dead in his tracks when the roar of an engine saturates the air, and the alleyway is suddenly illuminated by headlights. I squint, blinded by the sudden brightness, and blink back some of the glare, working to gain some focus, my heart beating wildly. I can feel his grip on me loosen. ‘Fuck,’ he curses, his voice now shaky rather than menacing. I hear a car door slam. I hear pounding footsteps. And then my attacker is suddenly catapulting backward with a startled yell, jerking me sharply as his hands are ripped away from my coat. The sound of him hitting the bricks of the wall opposite makes me flinch, and when my vision clears, I recoil, seeing the back of a rather large man towering over the trembling body of the scum who was about to . . .
I shake my head violently, not prepared to allow my mind to go there. Whoever has just shown up seems as menacing, though definitely better dressed. He’s wearing a suit, his blond hair wavy and falling to his ears. The headlights bathing the alley give me a perfect view as he drags the arsehole who just cuffed my face up the wall by his sweater. I’m held rapt by the widening of his eyes, the evidence of narcotics lessening by the second, being replaced with fear.