4fe 27 – Panic
No matter where she looked, Life was nowhere in sight. She wanted to let out a swear, but instead bit her lip and kicked a can that was laying around as hard as she could. It rebounded on a nearby piece of junk, then a wall, only to come back and hit Rosa on the head. She felt tears swelling up as she held her head in pain. Why was she so cursed with bad luck?
She sighed and looked around again. She was at the corner of Meadow and Crossarmed, and she couldn’t help but start laughing. It wasn’t happy, more like sad, and it wasn’t loud. Anyone nearby who could have heard her would’ve thought she was going crazy. That’s right. She knew this place all too well. This was the spot where even Greg and his gang stood clear from, because it was just that dangerous. The place where she hoped she would never have letters to deliver, and if she did, she’d run in and out of it until her lungs would burn and she would be left breathless. And Life had gone right through it, unknowingly.
She had to find him. Her hands were shaking and she was frightfully close to crying. She punched her own head hard enough to convince herself that if she cried now, it would be out of pain rather than out of fear. She stepped forward.
-Rosa, wait up!
She stopped cold when she heard that melodious voice. She turned around to face her and she must have a pretty scary expression, because Charlotte stopped in her tracks and stepped back, a look of fear on her face.
-Please! Just go back!
Without waiting for any response, Rosa turned around and darted towards the path she thought Life had taken. Little did she know, Greg had been watching the whole scene from a distance and while Charlotte stood there, confused and unsure as to whether she should obey or follow her anyway, he walked to her. He seemed calm and serious, and for once he was alone.
-You should do as she says.
-Huh? Who are you?
-A pretty girl like you shouldn’t hang out around here. It’s dangerous.
He looked towards the direction Rosa had taken, his eyes betraying no emotion; or was that cold, calm respect? Charlotte couldn’t tell; and she was usually pretty good at reading people. He grabbed her arm roughly and dragged her out of the streets, back towards the bakery.
While Rosa had caught nothing of this scene, chances are, if she did, she would have been more alarmed than reassured. After all, to her Greg was nothing but trouble. He and his pals had always enjoyed causing trouble for her, especially while she was working. How many times had they thrown rocks, stabbed and beat her up? She had gotten used to it over the years, and now she knew how to get away from their grasp.
But she had never talked about him to anyone, especially not Charlotte, and it never crossed her mind that maybe one day they’d cross paths. If she had seen him take her away as he did, chances are she would have been so alarmed, she would have been torn between who to save first. Perhaps it was a good thing, in a way, that she missed all of it.
She concentrated on running, every single one of her senses on edge, trying to catch anything out of the ordinary. It was still clear outside, at least, which meant the more dangerous thugs were still sleeping. If she could find Life and get him out of there before sunset, it would only be for the best.
Many of them were laying down on the ground, stirring in their sleep, as Life had probably woken them up when passing by before she did, and she could feel none of them were happy about it. She received a few mean glares, that she tried to not pay much attention to. She was starting to believe she might have been following the wrong path after all when she noticed a puddle on the ground that had been splashed not that long ago. Water was directing her towards a clean track for a moment, barely long enough to tell her he had crossed the next intersection. She walked by one of the loudest bars in town and had to lower her head as a bottle of beer was sent flying just over her, before exploding on contact with the brick wall behind her.
She took in a deep breath, hearing some hushed voices on the other side of the door. Wasn’t it a little early to be drunk? Or had they been drinking since the night before? Somehow, she didn’t feel like staying around to find out. She ran off towards the direction she hoped Life had taken, given she wasn’t following some random kid’s path instead. A few yowls were sent at her, with more glass bottles, as the men had realized someone was standing outside; they probably thought she was eavesdropping.
She came to a halt a little further away, behind a garbage can. She crouched down to make sure she wasn’t seen and grabbed her bandana tightly, eyes shut tight. She had enough. She wanted to run back home; she could even see where to go from here. But she had to find Life.
Why had he ran away like this, anyway? She had been pretty shocked to see him sitting on a table in the bakery, after she had finally managed to convince herself she would never see him again. Now she had this feeling in her chest that she would never be able to live on and trying to forget about him. Not that she had seen him again. Not when he had been so panicked.
He had given a glare filled with distress towards the gentleman who was with her before he ran off. He had then looked at her and her heart ached as she tried to decipher what emotion it was. No matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise, she knew he had felt betrayed. Was she the traitor, or was it Alexander…?
She took in a deep breath and clenched her fist. Determination filled her as she decided there was no way she was giving up now. She’d find Life, and they would get out of here safely. Then she would be able to ask him all the questions she had in mind. But first, she had to find him.
A chilling and terrified scream resonated against the walls and Rosa felt a rock of ice in her belly. She got up to her legs, ignoring their shaking, and ran as fast as she could towards it, panic filling her mind with the worse scenarios she was capable of imagining.
She wondered what she’d do if she found him dead, in a pool of his own blood, his eyes staring blankly at the sky. She tried to push the thought away, feeling sick to her stomach, but it loomed over her, giving birth to images of doom in her mind.
She reached a dead end and punched the wall with her fist, swearing inside her mind. Where was he, then? As if to answer her thoughts, a new dreading cry was heard and she rushed to the new destination. She ran blindly, barely seeing where she was going, tripped more than once, but every time she got up, feeling no pain thanks to the adrenaline, continuing like nothing happened.
When she finally arrived at the scene, her eyes adjusted on a helpless Life holding his own blood-soaked arm, eyes shut tight in pain. In front of him stood a man that Rosa could only qualify as a giant. He had broad shoulders with a small head resting on it, and he was ominously staying in the shadows so well that she could not see his face. In his hands was a butcher’s knife stained with her friend’s blood. For a moment she couldn’t help but think about how cliche the whole of it was.
She was snapped back to her senses when the man stepped towards him. Without thinking, she rushed towards him, and shoulders first, tried to make him fall to his side. He barely felt the tackle, and for a moment Rosa wondered if he had even noticed she was there. From this close though, she realized he was not as tall as she previously thought. He was nothing short of muscle, however. She yelled some insult at him to make sure he did notice her, before biting as hard she could in his arm, ignoring the pain she felt in her mouth.
Before she knew it, he had grumbled something, annoyed, had grabbed her by the neck and threw her so hard against the wall that she started seeing stars and the background started dancing in front of her eyes. Black dots started filling her vision, but she forced herself to get up, refusing to give up. Something warm dripped on the side of her face and blurred her already pretty unsteady vision even more. She swept it with the side of her hand and didn’t need to look at it to know it was blood.
-Leave him alone, you big jerk!
Her voice was unsteady and scary. Life looked at her in shock and didn’t seem sure whether to cry, panic or run away. She panted a bit, ignoring the pain and launched herself at the man again who pushed her without any problem. She heard him sigh.
-Damn, why is it so hard to kidnap a kid and ask for ransom? If you had been just nice and followed me, none of this would have happened.
-Don’t hurt her!
For a moment she wasn’t sure who had talked. She felt pain even stronger than her physical one when she realized it must have been Life. She fell to her knees, tears falling on her cheeks as she finally gave up and let herself fall into unconsciousness.
She had failed to recognize the one voice she had promised herself she would never forget.