Twenty year-old Barbara woke up suddenly, gasping and looking around frantically. She was on the couch, still in her dress from yesterday, but she couldn’t remember how she got there.
She sat up, trying to remember what happened last night. Pushing up on the couch to stand up, her left arm abruptly throbbed with pain. Grasping it, an image flashed in her mind. A cloaked form. Solid black eyes. Fangs. And screaming. Lots of screaming. And ... she looked at her dress. It was covered in blood.
Yesterday morning, she had left her house and walked down the sidewalk to the bookstore that she worked at. She and Glenn lived in the worst part of the Bronx. In her worn and tattered dress, she side-stepped around a wino passed out on the sidewalk. Derelicts wandered about, toothless mothers screamed at their neighbors, trash was everywhere and she had to be constantly on her guard. She kept her head down, not looking at any of the drunks staggering up the sidewalk or the rough guys who occasionally eyed her as she passed by. This was her world. Horrible, dismal and dangerous. Passing by the newspaper rack, she glanced at the headline: ANOTHER BODY FOUND BADLY MUTILATED AND DECAPITATED. It seemed like every two or three days, somebody was brutally murdered. The police said it was a serial killer
She had had no breakfast and there would be no lunch, because there were no groceries. Glenn had spent their money again on drugs. Why did he have to spend their money on drugs instead of food?! How were they supposed to eat? She could use the food pantry at St Michael’s Church to get some free groceries, but, except on Fridays, it closed before she was able to get off work.
She had been with Glenn for the last year, meeting him outside a bar that she had been panhandling at. She had been on the streets ever since she ran away from home when she was eleven. Now, at twenty years old, her face reflected her soul, sad and defeated. She didn’t walk, she trudged as if to the gallows. She had learned years ago that this was her lot in life. And there was no changing it.
She grew up in Middletown, Connecticut, the only child of her well-to-do parents. She was fifteen years old when the principle came to her classroom, asked the teacher if he could speak to her, and in the blink of an eye, her world was forever changed. Her parents had been killed in a car wreck. Having no relatives to take her in, she was put in a foster home. For the first few nights, she cried herself to sleep as she realized her parents weren’t coming back. Her only real comfort was Baloo, her grey teddy bear named after the bear from her favorite Disney cartoon, The Jungle Book, that her parents gave her when she was six. She was home-schooled and there were no other children in her neighborhood so she didn’t have any friends. For a few days, she slowly adjusted to this new life, then...
One night, she had been asleep for a while when she felt something. Opening her eyes sleepily, she saw her foster father climbing on top of her. Her eyes grew big as she gasped. He quickly clamped his hand over her mouth, “I’ve spend a lot of money on you; food, clothes, bills ... Nothing in this world is free! It’s time you earn your keep around here!” She felt her panties being pulled down and then something was pushed roughly into her vagina, causing her to cry out in pain.
“Be quiet!”, he hissed at her. Laying on top of her, he rocked his body against hers as the unseen pain in her vagina continued. She tried to push him off, but he held her arms down, “Hold still!” His eyes, staring into hers, were nothing that she had ever seen before, wild and frenzied. Frightened, she tried to remain quiet, but the pain was too much. Wincing, she told him, “It hurts...” But her pleas went unanswered as he continued thrusting into her, covering her mouth as she cried from the pain. After a minute, he groaned and stopped moving. Scowling down at her, he warned, “Keep your mouth shut about this! This is nothing but a nightmare!” He got up and left her room as she continued crying bitterly. For the next couple of hours, she held Baloo close to her and asked him why her new father would hurt her like that. But Baloo only looked at her with his plastic black eyes. There were no answers.
The next morning, when she woke up, she wondered if it had just been a nightmare until she saw her panties bunched up around her knees and the specks of blood on the sheet between her legs. Her father’s frenzied, terrifying face flashed in her mind along with his warning. She looked at her vagina and touched it. It was still a little sore. Going into the bathroom, she took a shower and washed the drops of blood off. But instead of getting dressed, she crawled back into bed, under the covers. She couldn’t go out there where her father was. To the person who was supposed to take care of and protect her, but who had hurt her instead.
Several minutes later, she heard her door open. Her eyes opened wide in fear as her father silently strode towards her slowly. “Barbara, it’s time for breakfast. Come on, get up. Last night was a nightmare.” He turned and walked towards the door, pausing to turn his head back towards Barbara, his eyes giving her a warning look, “And that’s all it was.” Then he left.
Barbara huddled in fear underneath the blanket, clutching Baloo tightly. Last night was not a nightmare. It did happened. She got out of bed and slowly got dressed. Not wanting to be around her father, but not knowing what else to do, she left her room and went to the dining room.
“Good morning Barbara”, her mother greeted her, “Did you sleep well last night?”
Barbara stared at her blankly, then at her father silently, not knowing how or whether she should answer. “Well Barbara...”, her father looked at her firmly, “Did you sleep well last night?”
Seeing the coldness in his eyes, she knew that she couldn’t tell her mother the truth, so her fear answered for her. “Y-yes”, she finally answered as she sat down to her plate of toast and eggs. She only picked at her food, not having any appetite.
“Good”, her father said, “When you’re finished eating, we’ll get started on your studies.”
She ate a few bites, then took her plate to the kitchen to wash it. Afterwards, she got her notebook and went to her father’s den for that day’s schooling. He made no mention of it, and acted as if it never happened.
When it was bedtime, she laid in her bed, her eyes nervously on the door to see if he would come. She waited ... then began trembling violently as her door opened and her father came in, closing the door behind him.
“Pull your panties down”, he told her quietly. His voice, distant and unfeeling, compelled her to obey. Squeezing her eyes tightly closed so she wouldn’t have to look at him, her breath shuddered as she slowly slid her panties down. She felt his heavy weight pressing down on her as once again, she felt something pushed roughly inside of her. She whimpered as his hand covered her mouth, stifling her cries. She tried to block out her pain, her terror, her screams. After an eternity, he got off of her, telling her, “You had another nightmare, Barbara. Go to sleep.” She cried bitterly after he left until exhaustion finally took her.
The nightmares from her father continued for over a year. He was no longer her new father, but instead, a monster. If she tried to resist, he would hold her down, causing it to hurt even more. There was no one for her to confide in because she was home-schooled and didn’t have a phone to use. She could not even tell her mother because he was always there since he worked from home. She had resigned herself to the fact that this was how her life would be, when one day, her father actually left the house to go to the store, leaving her alone with her mother.
It was mid-afternoon. Seizing upon her father’s absence, Barbara suddenly blurted to her mother, “Every night, Father lays on top of me and hurts my vagina!” Her mother gaped at her as she added, “I’ve been wanting to tell you, but he’s always here and I was scared!”
Barbara waited for her to say something. Her mother’s surprised look narrowed to a scowl, “Your father told me that you make up outrageous lies. I didn’t believe him when he would tell me some of the false accusations that you would make about him, but now I see it’s true.”
In anguish at not being believed, Barbara beseeched her, “But he does...”
Her mother slapped her hard, “I will not stand here and have you say such vulgar things about your father!”
Holding her cheek, Barbara retreated to her room. As her one chance for escape slipped away, the implications of telling her mother loomed over her. She would tell her father and he would...
Her eyes growing big, she ran to her closet, grabbing her small, pink backpack. Quickly unzipping it, she put as many clothes as she could in it. Frantically looking around, she saw her favorite movie and squeezed it in behind her clothes. Then she looked all over at everything, desperately looking for anything that she couldn’t leave behind. Suddenly, she ran to her bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush and toothpaste and squeezed them in. Looking at how stuffed her backpack was, she knew that nothing else would fit. She opened her money jar and grabbed the bills, stuffing them in her pocket, then poured the coins into her hand and put them in her pocket also. Running to the window, she unlocked it and pushed it up. Dropping her backpack on the ground outside, she took one last look at her room and gasped as she saw that she almost left Baloo behind. Running over and snatching him up, she crawled out the window, grabbed her backpack and ran down the street.
She ran blindly, not knowing where she was going, only that she needed to put as much distance as she could between her and the house before her father got back. In the small town of Middletown, she knew her parents would call the police and the police would return her. If her mother wouldn’t believe her, then the police wouldn’t either. She had to leave Middletown, the only place she’s ever known, and go some place where her father would never find her.
She saw the bus station a few blocks away and headed for it. Walking inside the small terminal, she saw a large map on the wall with Middletown in the center. Looking at the surrounding towns and cities, she saw a huge city in the southeast corner. New York City. It was huge. The monster, that was her father, would never find her there. She walked over to look at the bus fares that were listed above the counter. Middletown to New York City was $9.75. Pulling out her money and change, she laid it on an empty seat and counted it. After a couple of minutes, she found she had a total of $17.53. She went over to the counter and asked for a ticket to New York City.
“That will be $10.37”, the older man behind the counter told her. She counted out her bills and coins and handed the amount over. He handed the ticket to her, saying, “It leaves in twenty-seven minutes.”
Mumbling thank you, she took a seat facing the clock on the wall. As the minute hand slowly ticked its way around, she clutched Baloo tightly against her chest, glancing every now and then to the doors leading outside to see if her parents were about to walk in. The minutes passed slowly. She kept expecting to see her parents walk through the doors thwarting her escape, but they never came.
Finally, it was time. Stepping outside, she walked towards bus #37 and slowly climbed up the steps, handing her ticket over to the driver. She made her way down the aisle towards the back and sat down in an empty seat. Her backpack on the seat beside her and with Baloo in her lap, she looked out the window as the bus pulled out. She watched the buildings pass silently by. Never really having been out in town before, they held no meaning to her, except that this was her home. The only home that she had known. And she was fleeing it alone, to an unknown city to start her life over, as she had to do over a year ago when her parents were taken from her. She watched as the buildings became fewer as the bus sped off down Washington Street. The buildings eventually ended, giving way to pasture land and then thick forests as she headed towards Highway 91 and her new life.
For the better part of an hour, the highway followed the coast and Barbara stared at the ocean in wonder. Then the New York City skyline appeared. She gazed in wonder at the sheer number of buildings that seemed to go on with no end and the beautiful houses in the distance. As the bus drove on, Barbara noticed a change. There were more pawn shops, liquor stores and gun stores. The people were poorly dressed, some sleeping right on the sidewalk. The bus pulled into a large parking lot and grabbing her backpack, Barbara stepped off and looked around. Not knowing where to go, she simply began walking. She didn’t know where she was going. She was just looking. Seeing what there was out here in this strange city. After wandering aimlessly for an hour, she sat on a bench at a park to rest.
She suddenly realized she was hungry. Seeing a McDonalds nearby, she went over to it and went inside, looking up at the menu. Ordering a cheeseburger, fries and a coke, she sat down at a booth by the window and watched the people pass by outside. She now had less than four dollars left. It was enough money for her to buy one more meal. As she chewed on her french fries and wondered how she was going to eat tomorrow, she asked herself if she had made a mistake coming here. What good would starving do? Maybe it would have been better if she hadn’t left. After all, she had food, a bed, and a home.
Then her father’s frenzied eyes flashed before her eyes as she felt him thrusting inside her. Clenching her eyes shut to push away the image, she knew that she would rather starve to death than to suffer that every night. That was not a home. A home is where you felt safe and were loved. After she finished her meal, she continued her trek. Not really knowing what she expected to find, she knew that she needed a place to spend the night.
A couple of hours later, it was dark. The grungy derelicts wandering around looked scary to her. She went into an dingy alley and hid behind a dumpster. Holding her teddy bear to her chest, she sat down and leaned against the dumpster, hoping that nobody would see her and hurt her. Her head fell on top of Baloo as the tears ran down. Feeling alone in an unfriendly and ugly wilderness, she cried softly as she asked Baloo, “What’s going to happen to me, Baloo?!”
Barbara opened her eyes and got out of bed. Opening her door, she walked out of her bedroom into the kitchen, where she smelled bacon and toast. Her birth mom came out, greeting her, “Hello dear! How did you sleep?”
Barbara didn’t answer. She was too shocked.
“Would you like some breakfast, dear?”, her mom asked.
“What?”, Barbara asked.
Nineteen year-old Barbara’s eyes opened and she clutched Baloo tightly against her as the call for breakfast sounded again. It had been a dream. She had had another dream where her parents were alive, she had food to eat and a bed to sleep in. As she rolled over on her back, stretching her arms, her eyes closed again. She was still tired and wished she could sleep in, but it wasn’t allowed here at the homeless shelter. She had been lucky to have been able to get a bed to sleep in last night. She slowly got up, stretching her muscles. The beds were hard and uncomfortable, but it was still a bed inside a building, and it wasn’t always available. On the nights that she couldn’t get a bed, there was an alleyway behind Burlington Coat Factory with an overhang to keep off the rain. Over the years, she had collected things and took them to that alley to make her sleeping spot a bit more comfortable: a blanket, a dirty stained pillow, a bottle for water and some books to read.
Putting her teddy bear in her backpack, she got in line for breakfast. It was always the same: oatmeal, sausage and toast with jelly. As she went through the line and carried her tray of food to an empty table, she saw a newspaper. She looked at the date and sighed silently. Two days ago had been her birthday. She knew that it was coming up, but she had forgotten. She had spent it the same as her last two birthdays; standing beside the road begging for change and then searching the dumpster behind the grocery store for her dinner because it always had edible food in it. One birthday, she actually found some stale cupcakes which were a good substitute for a birthday cake.
Her first birthday on the streets was miserable because it was a painful reminder of everything she lost. The following birthday, her thirteenth, had come and gone without her even realizing it until one day she found a discarded newspaper and saw that her birthday had happened two weeks ago. Now, her birthdays were no longer special. They were the same as every other day, just trying to survive and stave off boredom by reading.
While she ate, she overheard a man talking about how the Bowery Mission on Park Avenue South gives clean clothes and a shower to the homeless. Her clothes were dirty and worn and it had been three days since she had a shower. She needed to go over there.
She had been on the streets for the last 3 years. The first week was the hardest. She didn’t know anything or anyone. She thought that she would be able to trust the kind-heartedness of strangers, but after being raped by a grungy old man under a bridge a few days after arriving, she learned to trust no one. Avoiding the police from fear that they would return her to her father, she did want she could to survive, begging, digging through trash cans for scraps of food and at times, stealing. She hated to steal, but hunger and desperation sometimes makes you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.
She had become a feral animal, paranoid and relying on her wits and senses. As the days turned into weeks and then months and then years, she learned where to go for food, shelter, an occasional shower if she was lucky, and most importantly, what areas were to be avoided so bad things wouldn’t happen.
One night, she was panhandling outside of a bar in the south Bronx near Yankee Stadium. It had been raining for several minutes and as she stood under the awning of the bar, trying to stay dry, she spied across the street, a mother and father eating inside a restaurant with their young daughter. As Barbara watched, the young daughter laughed at something the father said as she dipped the french fry she was holding into her ketchup.
She had seen this before, a happy family who had no concept of loss, and who were enjoying their lives. Every time she saw it, she would tear up as she was reminded of what she lost, but her tears would quickly turn to bitterness towards the little girl who had what she did not. Happiness, food, a dry bed, and most of all, loving parents. Someone who loved you and would take care of you. She had to turn away. It was too much for her to see; happiness, plenty of food to eat and dry clothes.
At that time, a man stumbled out of the bar and saw her, “Hey ... do you need somewhere to stay?”
It was obvious that she was homeless and normally she never went with strangers, but now ... hungry, wet from the rain, lonely and miserable from watching the happy little girl, she couldn’t take anymore and nodded sadly.
“Come on”, he jerked his head down the street, “I’ve got some leftover ham that I was going to finish off...”
Without hesitation and for once, pushing aside her distrust of strangers, she followed. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was starving. Food, a shower and a dry bed out of the rain were luxuries that she couldn’t afford to pass up.
And that’s how she met Glenn. He was a drunk, drug addict and sometimes would have a job, but usually didn’t. He rarely bathed, had a bad temper and would hit her often, but Glenn gave her a place to stay, and despite being a rat-infested ramshackle shack, that was everything. It provided Barbara some semblance of the life and home that she once had. There was a bed, a bathroom, a kitchen, a shower, running water, electricity, a place to store her things without worrying about them being taken. It was everything the streets were not and a Godsend. Moreover, he was company for her, someone to talk to. He was all she had, and she preferred having someone in her life rather than being alone on the streets. Too many bad things had happened to her because she was alone with no where to go.
She hated when he would have sex with her, but he told her that was her way of paying to stay there, so she did it out of obligation. He was rough and uncaring, and always told her that no one else would want her and that she should be grateful for him. She hated being with him and was scared of him, especially after he had been drinking, but she was too afraid to leave, not just because of him but also because she did not want to be on the streets anymore or alone. Anything was better than the streets, especially now, with this vicious killer that had been on the news so much. She got her job at the bookstore a few days later, so they had some steady money coming in and really enjoyed working there because there were so many books for her to read when it was slow.
A year later, as twenty year-old Barbara stepped inside the bookstore, she went to the back to say hi to Mr Tisdale, the owner. Then she began organizing the books that had been left out and putting them away. Throughout the day, customers would wander in, usually mothers with their kids. Every now and then a teenager would come in and buy a book. She helped people find books and manned the checkout register. The work wasn’t hard and she enjoyed helping people. When there weren’t any customers needing help, she would read whatever book she happened to be reading at the time. Today, she was finishing The Count of Monte Cristo: “ ... only God knows what the future will bring. And until He decides to reveal that future to man, man must simply wait and hope ... as I did for so many years ... wait and hope.” She closed the book. ‘Wait and hope for God to reveal the future... ‘, she thought to herself. In the book, a man, who was unjustly imprisoned, escapes to discover an immense treasure. Barbara noticed how she herself was a prisoner: of poverty, of Glenn, of the constant threat of being condemned to the streets. ‘But there’s no Cardinal Spada’s treasures for me’, she sadly remarked to herself, ‘I can’t even afford groceries. I’ll need to stop by the food pantry at St Michael’s Church on the way home.’
As the day went by, she straightened up the store and helped whoever needed it. The day passed by slowly until finally, it was nine o’clock and time to close up. Mr Tisdale locked the door, bade her goodnight and walked up the street. Barbara said ‘Good night’ and walked the opposite way across the parking lot till she got to the sidewalk then continued on, unaware of the man following her.
She walked down the sidewalk and as she passed by a van, the side door suddenly slid open and two arms reached out, grabbing her. As she instinctively pulled away, the man behind her pushed her inside. The man inside pulled her in, the door closed and the van sped off. Barbara kicked and screamed as the two men laughed and slapped her face, telling her to shut up. One man held her arms as the other man sat on her legs and ripped her blouse open.
“Hey!”, the driver yelled suddenly, distracting the two men holding Barbara down, “There’s some freak in the road!”
The man sitting on Barbara’s legs, looked out the windshield and told him, “He’ll move!”
The driver looked at the cloaked figure standing on the road with it’s head bowed. “He’s not moving!”, he yelled.
“Then run him down!”
The figure still didn’t move as the van quickly approached.
“Better move, muthafucka!”, the driver exclaimed as his eyes narrowed. The figure remained standing as the van bore on, as if challenging the van to hit him. “I’m gonna hit him!”, the driver yelled, causing the other two men to look.
Less than a second before the van hit, the men watched as two huge wings spread out, six feet on either side and the figure suddenly jumped towards the van.
“What the...”, the driver started to exclaim, but never finished as the figure burst through the windshield, spraying glass particles inside. Its head and torso inside the van, it grabbed the driver, sinking it’s teeth into his throat, ripping it open, then crawling inside as the driver’s lifeless body dropped to the floor. The two men in the back screamed as the menacing figure opened it’s mouth and roared, spraying blood droplets at them in the process. The two men scampered back as they pulled their Glocks out, shooting wildly at the creature.
Out of control, the van veered and glanced off the side of a building, scraping against it as it slowly came to a stop. Barbara covered her face, screaming hysterically, as the two men continued shooting. The bullets had no effect as the creature opened its mouth wide, baring its bloody fangs as it leapt forward onto one of the men. Ripping his arm off as he fired futilely, the creature then punched its fist through his chest, killing him. Then it turned its black soulless eyes onto the other man as he scrambled over the seat in the back, pleading, “What do you want?!”
“YOUR BLOOD!“, the creature answered in a deep guttural growl before scrambling over the seat and on top of him as he screamed. The creature’s tail whipped around furiously for a few seconds, then was still.
Moments later, the man stopped screaming. The creature slowly crawled back over the seat, blood dripping from its mouth and it froze, then slowly crawled over to the girl, who was laying still, apparently fainted. Pulling back the cloak from its head revealed a woman’s face with long flowing hair, but not quite like a woman. Her skin was grey, splattered with blood, and her eyes were solid black. As her demonic face gazed at the young girl, the twisted rage on it slowly faded as it looked curiously at her and reached out with its grey, clawed fingers and stroked her hair.
The creature was entranced. It had never encountered one such as this before. For a while, it just gazed at her, then it suddenly realized that she needed to be taken home. Searching the young girl’s pockets, for anything that would say where she lived, it pulled a piece of paper out and unfolded it. It was a pay stub dated last week and it had her name, Barbara Stanwick, and her address on it. She lived nearby in one of the worst areas of the city.
Kicking the side door off its hinges, the creature gently picked Barbara up and lifted her out of the van. Stretching out its wings, it jumped up as the great wings swept downwards, lifting it into the sky. Less than half a minute later, it landed gently beside the front door of a run-down house. Twisting the knob and finding it unlocked, it carried Barbara in. The house appeared empty and sparsely furnished. Laying Barbara on the dirty worn sofa, it took off Barbara’s shoes. Crouching down and staring lovingly at her, it reached out and gently touched the young girl’s cheek and then traced its finger down along her arm, leaning slowly closer until it briefly kissed her with the softest of kisses.
It wanted to remain there beside this beautiful maiden, but it couldn’t risk the girl waking up and seeing it. It rose up again, standing imposingly before the unconscious young girl as its tail swayed slowly. It lingered for a few more seconds and then turned and left, closing the door behind it. Moments later, it leapt up into the sky, its great wings carrying it away into the night.
Barbara looked at the dried blood on her arms and legs. She took off her clothes, checking her self to see if the blood had come from her, but she appeared to be fine, aside from her sore arm. Seeing the creature’s face in her mind, roaring as blood dripped from its fangs, watching it as it ripped the man’s arm off ... Barbara suddenly felt sick. She ran to the toilet, collapsing before it as she cried uncontrollably. The whole experience was so terrifying. First being attacked by those men ... and then that ... creature ... She would have thought the whole thing a nightmare had her bloody clothes and sore arm told her differently. It really happened. It had killed everyone in the van, everyone but her. Why was she still alive ... and how did she get home?
A few minutes later, she calmed down. She had to change clothes and get to the bookstore. She was late. Aside from her blood-stained clothes, she only had a single dress to wear and nothing else. Glenn’s drinking and drug habit kept her from being able to buy any clothes. She had found a few clothes in the trash a few days ago, but they were still dirty because she hadn’t washed them yet.
She tip-toed to the bedroom door and opened it slowly so she wouldn’t wake Glenn up. She had to be careful not to make him angry or he would punish her. Peeking in, she saw him face down, passed out on the bed and breathed a sigh of relief. She was afraid of him when he was awake, never knowing if he would hit her for something that she did wrong. She slowly stepped into the room and took the dress hanging in the closet. As she was about to leave, she spied a crumpled up ten-dollar bill on the small table beside the bed. Feeling her empty stomach, she realized she hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday ... and they needed groceries. She didn’t know where the money came from, but Glenn certainly didn’t earn it at a job; he must have sold something he had stolen. They needed groceries, so she quickly pocketed the money. Tip-toeing out of the room, she quietly closed the door and slipped on her dress, then left to go to work.
She quickly walked to the bookstore, staring apprehensively at the spot where the van was last night. As she opened the door of the bookstore, she saw Mr Tisdale behind the register.
“I’m sorry I’m late, Mr Tisdale”, she said to him. He nodded to her in acknowledgement and went to his office in the back as she stepped up to the register. A mother with her young son stepped in front of the register, “We’ll take these three books.”
“Yes ma’am”, Barbara meekly replied as she typed in the price on the register. After they left with their books, a man stepped up, “Miss, do you have A Light in the Attic.”
“Yes sir”, she replied as she stepped away from the register, walked down the aisle past a young teenage girl perusing a book, and plucked it from the bookshelf and handed it to him. She walked back as a young man stepped up to the register. After he paid for his books and was leaving, Barbara accidentally knocked over a stack of books at the end of the counter. The noise startled her, causing her to gasp. As she knelt down to pick them up, the young teenage girl quickly ran up and began picking up the books for her.
“You don’t have to do that”, Barbara told the young girl, who appeared to be a little younger than her.
“I don’t mind“, she replied, smiling.
Barbara looked at her. The girl had a funny voice, as if she were in an empty room which caused an echo. The girl quickly picked up the books and laid them on the counter, then went back to the book she was looking at in the aisle.
The day passed slowly. She read in the news how a badly damaged van was found on the side of the road with three mutilated bodies inside and shivered as the memory of what happen last night came back to her. As evening approached and it became darker, Barbara became nervous, eyeing the darkness outside. She had always been afraid of being out at night, but what happened last night compounded her fear. Eventually, it was nine o’clock; closing time. She walked out with Mr Tisdale, said her goodbyes and slowly walked across the parking lot, her eyes fearfully glancing everywhere. She quickly turned behind her to make sure no one was following her, then she turned back to continue walking and cried out as she was suddenly startled by someone standing right in front of her.
As her fearful panting and racing heart slowed down, she saw that it was the young girl who had helped her pick up the books from earlier during the day. Barbara stared at her wide-eyed, “What are you doing here?!”
The girl smiled, “I thought you would like some company.“
Barbara told her, “It’s not safe for you to be out here. You should go home.”
The girl replied, “I would like to walk you home.”
Barbara was about to object, but then thought how having company would make her feel a lot better and besides, she couldn’t leave the girl out here alone. She knew how dangerous the streets were. “Okay.” As they headed down the street, she told the girl, “St Michael’s Church is closed now so I’ll have to go to the store to get some groceries. What’s your name?”
“Why does your voice sound like that?”
The girl hesitated then replied, “I’m from Greece.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you”, Barbara told her, to which Tisi grinned.
As they continued walking to St Michael’s, Tisi asked Barbara to tell her about herself, but all Barbara would say is that she came to New York a few years ago. She remained silent to Tisi’s questions about her parents and to Barbara’s relief, Tisi didn’t push her for answers. Surprisingly, Tisi was also reluctant to talk about her parents, only saying that she lived with some friends. Although Barbara was initially against it, she was glad the girl came along. It gave her not just some measure of comfort, but someone to talk to.
At the store, Barbara bought some milk, bread, peanut butter and jelly, and then was ready to go home. When they stopped in front of Barbara’s house, Barbara turned to Tisi, “Thank you for walking with me. But where is your home? I should walk you home.”
“It’s not far“, Tisi replied happily, “Do you live alone?”
“No. I live with a guy name Glenn.”
Tisi looked regretful, “Is he your boyfriend?”
“No, he’s just...”, she turned and looked at the door, “someone I live with.” Barbara felt a sudden breeze blow against her and turned back to ask Tisi, “You sure you don’t...” Barbara stared at the empty spot where Tisi stood, but was no longer there. She looked up and down the street, but couldn’t see the girl anywhere. She stood there for several seconds wondering how the girl could have disappeared so fast, and then went inside the house with her groceries.
As she stepped inside, she saw Glenn sitting on the threadbare sofa vaguely watching TV and slurping from a beer can. He looked up at her through his blurry eyes.
“Where the fuck have you been?”, he muttered contemptuously.
Barbara’s face immediately fell down to the floor in submission, answering quietly, “At the bookstore.”
Glenn staggered to his feet, precariously holding his beer can so that it sloshed out onto the floor “Where you here earlier?”, he asked in a low voice.
Barbara began trembling in fear as he walked towards her, murmuring, “I woke up on the sofa ... and ... and my clothes were dirty ... I had to change...”
“WHERE’S MY MONEY, BITCH?!”
“I ... I ... I had to get groceries...”, she started, then she felt an explosion of pain as she fell backwards onto the floor, smacking her head against the wall. Her vision was a red haze as she tried to focus her eyes.
“YOU SPENT MY MONEY ON THIS FUCKING SHIT?!”, he screamed at her as he kicked the grocery bag lying tipped over on the floor, the milk pouring out into a white puddle. Picking up the grocery bag, he hurled it outside through the still-open door, then slammed the door shut. “THAT TEN DOLLARS WAS MINE!”
“I-I’m sorry ... I’m sorry”, she pleaded as she tried to get up but couldn’t because she was too disoriented, “We needed...”
“You’re just not making enough money”, he told her, yanking her hair up causing her to cry out as her face was brought up to his. “You took my money ... but you’re going to make it back.” Her eyes darted wildly in fear as he glared at her. Then he added in a low voice, “Plus a whole lot more” and then he threw her back onto the floor. He sat back down on the couch and stared at the TV as she layed on the floor. For several minutes, she just layed there, crying. Her nose was bleeding and hurt really bad. When she touched it, she drew in a sharp breath as an intense pain shot through it. As her dizziness cleared and the pain subsided, she slowly crawled over to the couch and carefully pulled herself up.
This wasn’t the first time that Glenn had punched her ... nor would it be the last. She couldn’t call the police, because Glenn told her he would kill her if she did, and she couldn’t leave because the streets were even worse than this. Every time that Glenn hit her, he told her what she had done wrong and that he was punishing her so she wouldn’t do it again. She knew it was wrong to take his money, but she so hungry, not having eaten since yesterday.
With her head bowed, she quietly asked, “The food ... can I?...”
He looked at her, “It wasn’t yours to get. Leave it.”
Looking at the door for a moment as she felt her hunger pangs, she shuffled to the bedroom and layed down, pulling the blanket over her. Her nose still throbbed in pain. ‘He’s right’, she told herself, ‘It was his money. I shouldn’t have touched it.’
The next morning as Barbara left the house, she looked for the bag of groceries, but it was gone. She was busy at the bookstore and made sure to drink plenty of water because it helped quiet her hunger pangs. She noticed the young girl, Tisi reading a book. When Tisi looked up and saw her, she smiled and Barbara tried to smile back, but it was hard to. When it started getting dark, Barbara noticed that Tisi was still there. She told Tisi that she should really go home so she wouldn’t be out after dark. Tisi tried to stay, but Barbara insisted, not wanting anything bad to happen to her, especially with that creature on the loose. So Tisi left. When it was time to close the store, Barbara and Mr Tisdale closed up and left.
Barbara went home and went to the kitchen to get a drink. As she came out, she saw Glenn with two strange men coming out of the bedroom. Suddenly becoming fearful, she stood still, “Glenn ... who are...”