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.
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.
I held my hands out in front of me, as if I could wish her away or something. “This isn’t what it looks like. Please…” I didn’t even know what to say next. I felt like i was frozen in place, everything slowed down. I waited for her to start screaming or freaking out at finding a half naked, filthy girl in the bathroom. Beast stood at my ankles and growled.
The girl just turned and walked out of the restroom. I stared as the door slowly closed behind her. I was throwing my shirt back on, ready to make a run for it before she came back with her manager when the door opened again. She leaned back against the door, “There. I put the cleaning sign on the door and put the ‘closed’ banner across the door so no one will try to come in.” She came towards me and I practically melted into the door behind me.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Well, it’s obvious that you are in some sort of trouble. My sister just had to escape her abusive asshole of a husband and you have the same look about you. Is that it? Is someone chasing you? Are you hurt? Are you in danger?” She leaned down and held out her hand to my dog. That little bastard just went right to her.
“Traitor,” I said to him as he licked her hand like they’d been best friends his whole life. The furry little beast was certainly living up to his name.
She looked up at me then and stood, “My name is Claire. How can I help?”
I didn’t know what to say at that point. I had no idea how this wisp of a girl working at a movie theater could possibly help me. I just shrugged, “I don’t know. Can you throw my clothes in the wash?” I let my sarcasm hide my fears. “How about a steak, medium rare with a loaded baked potato on the side?”
She smiled, “Oh, yeah. You’ve got some balls. I’d say you’ll do just fine. I’ll be right back. STAY HERE.”
“Oh, I suppose. I mean, I did have a date later, but I guess I can wait.” I was more confused than anything, but I guess my snarky sense of humor just came to the forefront when I was terrified, desperate and at my wit’s end. She slid out the door and under the *Keep Out* sign and disappeared. I finally let myself slide to the floor and pulled Beast onto my lap. The stupid dog just wiggled around, licked my face and then settled in for another nap. How many damn naps did one dog need? I found myself petting his fur, wishing I could just curl up and sleep. I was exhausted.
I must have drifted off a little bit. The next thing I knew, Claire was back and shaking me awake. “Here, take these and go change.” She handed me a black employee polo, a jacket that had the theater logo on the back and a baseball style cap that matched the rest of the uniform. “I don’t have any pants for you, we all just wear whatever black pants we have.” She gestured to my leggings, “We aren’t allowed to wear leggings, but I don’t imagine you’ll be here long enough to get noticed. We’ll wait until the two main movies let out and you can blend in with the crowds.
“I…” I stopped, not really knowing what to say. I mean, here is this total stranger giving me clothes and helping me out. What was I supposed to say to that? “Thank you. I don’t know what I was going to do.”
“Just go change, I want to help. We can figure out what to do next after you have on some clean clothes.” I went into the stall and changed. It felt SO good to put on something clean, even if it was just a shirt and jacket. “Toss me your old stuff and I’ll throw it in my trash bag.” I did as she asked and pulled my long hair up and twisted it into a sort of bun before throwing the hat on top of it. I walked out into the light and she looked me over. “Good. No one will recognize you and they won’t be thinking to look for an employee anyway.” She turned me toward the mirror, “See?”
I looked and felt a big sense of relief. She was right. I didn’t look at all recognizable now. My hair was hidden, my clothes screamed “random theater employee!” and I was clean. Mostly. I almost smiled.
“I couldn’t find steak, but fries are almost potatoes, right?” She handed me a big popcorn tub and in it were fries, a couple of hot dogs, some chips and that nasty cheese stuff they always sell at concessions. It smelled divine.
I looked at her, blinking back tears. I was so relieved. So beyond thankful and just overwhelmed with everything. I tried to speak, but I was too choked up and the words wouldn’t come out.
She smiled, “Just eat. Seriously.” She led me over to a padded bench by the door. “I have to go make some rounds and clean up a couple of the theaters, but then I’ll be back and find a place for you to go until I’m off work. You can just stick around and sit in the back of one of the movies until then so you don’t have to stay in here. Eat. I’ll be back in a little bit.”
She left again and I sank back against the cold wall, my hand already digging for food. I was so hungry that it all tasted like gourmet food to me. I shared with Beast who seemed to appreciate the food at least as much as I did. I tried to eat slowly, but I was starving. Between the two of us, we’d demolished every bit of food by the time Claire came back.
“Come with me, I have a place for you. I’m off once this movie is over and I can give you a ride wherever you need to go.” She took my arm and I grabbed Beast, following her to the back of a theater. I didn’t even pay attention to what movie was playing, I just sat there holding Beast and trying to figure out how to accept help. A ride somewhere sounded great, but where in the hell did I even need to go? What was I supposed to do next?
(To Be Continued)