After coming home to barely miss my mother’s attackers, I watched her die in my arms. I followed the last words of warning she gave me, all while running for my life. Not knowing who wants me dead, or why. I’m on a mission to find my mother’s killers and to Escape Evil.
She put her hand on my face, turning me to look in her eyes. “Listen. I need you to hear me. You aren’t safe. They will come for you next.” She suddenly flinched and I felt her body contract with the pain. I choked back a sob and tried not to move her or hurt her more. I was holding my breath, hoping for a miracle that I knew wasn’t coming. She took a shuddering breath and continued, “Go see my psychic. Get clarity.”
My mom knew I didn’t believe that crap. “Mom, I don’t think I can get any real infor-”
“PLEASE!” She gasped again and started coughing. I could feel her tense with every cough. When she finally spoke again, I could barely hear her. “Please. Ask. her for Clarity. And Protection.” She looked at me, her eyes pleading. “Okay? Do it? Tell me?”
I knew she wanted me to to repeat her instructions. She had always done that for as long as I could remember. I could never get away with saying that I hadn’t heard something, because she made me repeat it. “Okay, mom. I will. I will go ask your psychic for advice.”
“Clarity. And…” her voice fell off.
“Clarity! Mom!” I squeezed her hand. “Clarity and protection. I promise.”
She closed her eyes then. He hand fell from mine. I screamed, the sound echoing, pounding through my head. I don’t know how long I sat there. How long before I finally let her go.
It took me a bit to remember where I was. Beast was whining and pawing at me, bringing me back to the present, but my emotions were still raw from the memories. I hugged him to me and tried to figure out what I was going to do next.
I looked down at my clothes and realized that I looked awful. I still had dried blood on my clothes, I was a complete mess. There was no way I was going to be able to get out and about without being noticed. Not like this.
I didn’t feel safe contacting anyone I knew. I didn’t want to bring trouble to their doors and honestly, at this point, I wasn’t sure who to trust.
The red stone sat heavy and warm against my chest. I suddenly felt the urge to go… somewhere. I stood up and walked out onto the sidewalk. There were enough people rushing by that I just kind of tried to keep pace. No one seemed to notice that I was a filthy mess, so I just kept moving.
My stomach was growling and I was pretty sure that Beast would need to eat soon, too. I had some cash in my pocket, but not much. I couldn’t very well walk into a restaurant in my current state, much less with a dog. I had no idea what to do, so I just kept walking with Beast sitting snug in my arms like he was used to being carried around like a little Prince.
I found myself at an intersection, not sure which way to go, when someone stopped to pet Beast. He growled at them and they looked at me with sympathy. I felt a hand pressing something into mine and the person said, “God Bless” before moving on. I looked down and saw a $5.00 bill in my hand. I almost laughed. I was beginning to wish that I was *only* homeless and hungry. Still, I was very grateful for the thought, so I gave them a smile and a thank you before crossing the street. I didn’t want to stay in one place too long.
I kept walking, just following my feelings as I hit each intersection. Sometimes I felt like I should turn, sometimes like I should just keep moving. My mind was racing as my feet carried us along the streets. I tried to always stay in amongst groups of people so that if anyone was looking for me, they would have less of a chance of noticing me.
I needed a shower, a change of clothes and probably a completely different look. Whomever was following me would know what I looked like. I could easily change my hair, my style and my clothes, but I needed to have a place to do it. I couldn’t very well give myself a haircut and dye my hair in the middle of the street.
The crowds of people were beginning to disperse. I looked around and realized that I didn’t know where I was. I had lived in the city for a long while, but I was a creature of habit. I rarely left my neighborhood and really just went from home to the corner store to school or to work. That was about the extent of my adventuring.
A lack of crowds meant that I was starting to feel pretty exposed and other people were beginning to notice my dishevelled state. I saw people staring, some whispering and pointing. I needed to get off the street and get myself taken care of. Now. I looked down at my leggings, my jacket and my filthy, blood stained shirt. It probably just looked like dirt or filth to others, but it was bringing me attention that I didn’t need. I kept my head down, zipped up my jacket and tried to surreptitiously find somewhere to go.
Coming around the corner, I saw a movie theater. One of those ridiculously huge deals that housed dozens of movies at once. I’d always thought them to be an annoying blight, but right now it was exactly what I needed. I took Beast and stuffed him in my jacket, praying that he would hold still and that no one would look at my bulging ‘belly’ too hard. Surely in this day and age, no one would comment on it. Maybe they’d just assume I was pregnant or something. I went to the window and bought a ticket to see one of the shows on the list. I didn’t even care which, I just wanted to get inside and out of the open.
I walked inside and the smell of hot dogs and popcorn nearly brought me to my knees. I felt Beast start to wiggle around and I knew he was hungry, too. I wrapped my hands around him and whispered reassurances, “Soon, Beast. I’ll get us food soon. First we have things to do.”
I walked through the building, hoping beyond hope that I would find one of the more private “family” bathrooms. There were two, but they were both occupied. I didn’t feel like standing around and waiting, so I kept moving. At the other end of the building, by all the exits, there was one last bathroom. It was full of stalls, but no one else was in there. Looking at the timing, I figured I had about ten to fifteen minutes before any movies on this end of the theater let out. If I was fortunate enough, I’d miss anyone taking a bathroom break in the midst of the movie and I could get cleaned up.
I let Beast out to run around and sniff at things, hoping he didn’t pick up anything too foul and went to the sink. I washed my hands and watched as the grime, the dirt and my mother’s blood washed away and down the drain. My mind tried to go back to those memories again, but I couldn’t let it. I had to be strong or I wasn’t going to make it. I looked at my face in the mirror and my haunted eyes stared back at me. I splashed water on my face and scrubbed until my skin felt raw.
I met my eyes in the mirror and gave myself a bit of a mental pep talk. “Come on, Avery. It’s time to get your shit together!” Beast nipped at my heels and barked as if in agreement. I picked him up and shushed him. The last thing I needed was someone finding me in the bathroom with a dog.
I grabbed a bunch of paper towels, got half of them wet and went into a stall. I took off all of my clothes and shook them out, trying to wipe away the worst of the mess. I was shaking and frustrated, near tears as I tried making my clothes look even halfway decent. It wasn’t helping. I put my leggings back on, but my shirt was a total loss. My sweatshirt was even worse. I felt myself caving in, like someone just punched me in the chest. I couldn’t do this. I was going to fail. I stepped out of the stall, thinking that I would rinse my shirt out in the sink with some soap and maybe get by. I could sit in a dark movie theater while it dried and then I could figure out what to do next.
The door to the bathroom opened just as I stepped out of the stall. “Oh my god!” I looked up in a panic and saw an employee standing there with a mop bucket to clean the restrooms. SHe was staring at me, her eyes wide. Then she looked down and saw Beast standing at attention by my feet.
“Shit” I muttered, preparing to launch into some excuse so that this girl wouldn’t get me kicked out. I had no idea what I was going to say.
(To Be Continued)
Photo Source Pixabay