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Stare. Part Two of “One. Two. Three.”

Don’t push me, she thought, teeth gritted. She closed her eyes briefly to the suffocating anger as it filled her lungs. Her neck twisted as a bone creaked in her spine, her jawline hardening as she looked slowly over her shoulder at the person behind her.

Eyes clouded with too many whiskeys, his face was covered in a sheen of salted moisture. His too wet lips, smiled as their eyes connected. His hands were outstretched as if they had never been on her, as though they had never touched her hips.

Her eyes assessed him quickly. Brown hair. Dark eyes. Twenty- twenty-two at most. Underweight for his height. Didn’t do sports. Six foot two- perhaps six three at a push. Was probably a nice guy when sober. A dick when drunk. Drank to get confidence with girls. No tan despite being Summer. Stayed indoors a lot. Office job or computer geek.

Her assessment unnerved him. It was her talent. She liked to look at a person and predict their life story- guess why and who they were by the state of their finger nails to the scuffs on their shoes.

She felt like a wild animal staring down a domesticated pup.

His gaze faltered when he saw her unsmiling face, taking it in even in his drunken state, his body still trying to dance suggestively in front of her.

I am not prey, she thought violently. I am not prey.

She turned fully to face him, her body rigid, her stance relaxed as she pressed the weight back on her right leg, ready.

Your country has ruined you, a voice said in her head.

It’s prepared me, she argued, her mouth twisting in an acidic smile.

“You really want to do this?” she growled, her teeth shining in a wolf like grin, daring. There was no warmth in her eyes. A tingling covered her back and seeped into her shoulders.

Step back, step back, step back.

“What’s your problem, gorgeous?” he shouted above the music, spittle flying from his overplump lips.

She continued to stare, feeling the blackness rise up in her, pushing it through every pore of her body towards him.

You have no idea, no idea, no idea.

His floppy head shook as he put his hands up, a two second moment of judgement bettering his night. Wordless, he threw himself into the crowd, jumping up and down with people he didn’t know to better forget her.

She watched him for a moment before the weight balanced on the flats of her feet. She rarely wore heels out. That seemed to be a rule- especially when she was going out alone.

She needed to know she could run.

She had learned her lesson before.

“Hey love! What you doing?” A voice had rang out in the cold, years ago as she had been walking home in England. Her music loud in her ears, she had walked down the hill towards her house, matching her steps to each beat of the song. She never heard them coming until it was too late.

A thunderous stomp made her jump and she had screamed in surprise.

A skinny lad with cropped red hair stared at her, his face pockmarked and gaunt as he stopped, his arm going round her.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice too loud. “Did I scare you?”

“Yes you did,” she muttered, brushing off his hand and beginning to walk quickly away. Her house was a stone’s throw away. She could see it.

His arm snaked out and grabbed hers, launching his body in front of her so she couldn’t walk past.

“I’m sorry,” he said, a slimy smile smearing on his face. “Can I have a hug?”

She scowled at him, noticing then that he wasn’t alone. A dark haired companion stood awkwardly to the side, his hands in his pockets.

“Come on, mate, let’s go,” he said.

“Nah,” the boy standing in front of her said. “I want a hug first.”

A fear settled in her stomach, her knees wobbling as adrenaline started to take over. “No,” she said again, feeling his eyes run over her. “Go away.”

She took another step for him to hold her back.

A deadly heat took hold of her as she shoved him away, pictures of her surroundings coming to her mind in disjointed squares. The sky. Pavement. Houses. Grass.

His hands were on her suddenly, his body pinning her against the tree as the flat of his palms grasped against her thighs, crawling up, greedy for more, more, more. Terror froze her limps as her mind processed what was happening.

This. Is. Happening.

Her fist launched into the cold and connected too lightly with his jaw.

“Mate, let’s go!”

Laughing the red haired lad stepped away, his friend still not doing anything, his hands still firmly in his pockets as he watched on awkwardly.

“You fucking arsehole!” she shouted, ashamed that her fear had leaked through. The fury was real now, her knees pathetic joints of water that refused to carry her another step. The first thing she was ashamed of was her punch. Too light. She had been too slow. Her fear had made her hesitate. Why hadn’t she ran? Why hadn’t she hit him sooner? Why had she been listening to music? Why had she not been more agressive from the start?

“Fuck off!” was the first thing she could shout. She needed that anger. She needed to cover the fact that she had been afraid. All she had was that emotion. It was meaningless.

He walked away, laughter and threats ringing off into the night.

The memories flashed in her mind as her body turned in the throng of bodies that now surrounded her. The people who she didn’t know or even care about. She wanted to get lost in the music, become some unseen thing that no one cared about, just as long as she could twist and turn to the music as if she was underwater.

She wanted to sink. To breathe it in. She wanted to be overwhelmed by anything else other than her thoughts. Fill the void that was a leaden weight inside her chest.

With what, with what, with what?

She stared at the people around her, feeling like a different species. Damaged.

You don’t know, she wanted to shout. Hell, she wanted to scream it. Scream it to the rooftops until the glasses smashed and the ceiling started to disintegrate around their skulls.

One chaos for another, she told herself. Well done.

She had to depend on herself. There wasn’t anyone there to protect her. For her to seek comfort in. She was painfully aware that it was her alone to rely on. It was like walking through the snow with no coat, or across gravel with no shoes. It was up to her how heavily she tread or how well she kept warm.

The music rose in the club, her arms rising in praise, droplets of beer spilling to her feet. She didn’t have to think of that now. Didn’t have to think of it at all.

God, I love this song.

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