The hand seemed to come from nowhere. Erin was walking down the street on her way home from school when she felt someone grasp her wrist and pull her backwards. She landed hard on her back and it knocked the air out of her. The door of the van slammed shut, and she was plunged into total darkness. As she gasped, trying to force air back into her lungs she was thrown to the side as the vehicle she was in shot away from the curb. She didn't move far before she was pinned to the ground, her arms bound to something above her head. In the darkness she heard his heavy breath, and felt his body pressing down on her. Tears welled up in her eyes as she tried to find the breath to scream. She started kicking, but it did no good. Her attacker grabbed her head and rammed it against the metal of the floor. Stars burst before her eyes and she felt herself fall into unconsciousness. She woke with a scream, and found herself outside, alone in the dark. She slowly sat up and looked around before looking down at herself. Her clothes were in shreds and when she touched the back of her head her hand came back coated in blood. She did the only thing that she could think of, she got up and ran. Her tortured body screamed in pain, but she pushed it to its limits. She ran and ran but seemed to get nowhere before suddenly she felt herself falling…
Erin shot up in her bed, the sheets clinging to her sweaty body. That dream had haunted her for years, and usually on the anniversary of the date it was the worst. She shoved the blankets off of her and crawled to the edge of the bed. She sat for a minute on the edge, catching her breath before she tugged her clothes into place and got up. She snagged the joint and lighter she had left on her nightstand before heading to her small living room. She hiked up her too big sweat pants and tugged down her tank top before she collapsed onto the couch and lit up. She channel surfed as the weed did exactly what it was supposed to, pushing all logical and painful thoughts to the edge of her consciousness where she could easily ignore them. There was nothing on but info-mercials so she turned it off and lay on her back. She watched the smoke hiss out from between her lips and dissipate in the air above her. She did this until she felt herself falling back to sleep. She dropped the roach into the ash tray next to the couch and pulled the blanket that lay over the back of the couch down to cover her.
She laid there, her green eyes barely open as she gazed at nothing, her dark auburn hair hanging off the side the coach. Her mind drifted through mundane thoughts, never settling until a face swam up in her mind. Erin rolled onto her side, drawing her legs up to her body as the image of Leo startled her dazed mind. Why would she think of him? She hadn't seen him face to face in years. They barely even talked on the phone anymore. He had been her first love, and her first kiss, but his parents had gotten divorced, and he had moved away. He spoke occasionally of coming back, but he never had. She missed him; he had been one of the few people who had stayed with her after she changed.
She had been popular and outgoing, a ready smile and an unwavering confidence. She wore bright beautiful fashion designer clothing that fit her thin form like a glove, and could make anyone smile. No one had wondered at her change, no one bothered to ask why she had turned into the way she was now, a withdrawn shell of her former self, never talked to anyone new, wearing dark clothing that almost completely enshrouded her body. He hadn't made a face at her and walked by like he hadn't seen her. He still came up to her and put his arm around her and grinned as if nothing had changed. No one knew, not even her parents. Her parents assumed it was "a phase" and left her alone, letting her move into the downstairs basement suit and rarely talking to her. She missed her mom and the shopping trips they used to go on, but felt that there was no way they could connect anymore, there was too much between them. Erin felt a tear slide down the side of her face, and didn't bother reaching up to wipe it away. She lay there in her haze for a while longer before noticing the sunlight peaking through the curtains.
She got off the couch and stretched herself out. She walked to the bay doors that led to her back yard and opened them wide, letting the mornings light in. She leaned against the frame, bathing in the light and taking deep breathes of the cool, clean air. It wasn't long before the air cleared her mind, and the nervousness set back in, and the feeling at the base of her neck crept back up. Silently, she closed the doors, locking them and pulling the drapes shut tightly. She leaned her forehead against the royal blue fabric and squeezed her eyes shut, willing the panic to go away. Feeling defeated, she headed to her room to dress for school. She pulled on some baggy black cargo pants, and her favorite long sleeved black shirt with silver swirls that looked like vines up the side. She left her hair hanging free around her face and put on a simple silver chain around her neck. There; plain, forgettable and almost invisible. She went upstairs and looked for some breakfast. Her father sat at the table, coffee and remote in hand. He glanced at her when she walked in, took in her appearance and decided this wasn't the version of his daughter he wanted to talk to, and went back to the morning news.
Sighing, Erin opened the fridge and reached for some eggs. Quickly and quietly she made herself a fried egg sandwich and a bowl of fruit, then retreated downstairs to eat before she left. After finishing, she glanced in the mirror one more time. Her dark green eyes stared back at her as she took in the pale skin, boring hairstyle and colorless lips. Sometimes, she missed the beauty… But most days she new beauty for what it was; A target. She knew now that anything that brought attention to herself was dangerous and to be avoided. She scooped up her bag and headed out the door. She briefly considered calling out a goodbye, but didn't want to feel the sting that the answering silence would bring.
She pulled her old ford ranger into the students' parking lot 20 minutes before class. First up, English. She walked through the halls to her locker a paradox of her former self; eyes down, arms crossed, pace fast. Occasionally she saw her old friends, and that twinge in her stomach almost made her stop and say hi. She wanted to go back and be who she used to be, but it seemed impossible now. How can someone be happy and upbeat and put themselves out there into the world every day when they now know what truly waits for them. It was the fear that kept her trapped and she couldn't deal with it. Not yet, and not alone…
The day passed by in a blur like it usually did. She had given all her extracurricular classes and mostly stayed home doing homework our reading or playing video games. She walked through the halls with Krista, her best friend, and Jason. They were all three in Finnigan's math 12 class and were groaning together after another hour and fifteen minutes of torture.
"I swear, he does it just because he knows one day he will get to witness someone's head explode." Krista said, her math book and binder wrapped in her arms.
"Yep, and I bet that lucky someone will be me." Erin responded with a shake of her head.
"Oh shut up, you are getting what, 93%?" Krista said, laughing and nudging her as they walked through the mass of people. Erin grinned back,
"94%, but that's not the point." She laughed as they stopped at their lockers, unloading the torture devices.
"Are you serious? Man, you should really come over sometime and tutor me. I could like, buy you dinner to pay you or something?" Jason asked. His locker was right next to Erin's, so he stood there loading up his bag and waiting for a response.
"Yeah, maybe." Was her answer, paying more attention to digging through the depths of her locker.
Stretching, Krista glanced over and asked,
"Hey, you up for a movie or something tonight?"
"Yeah, sure! I can pick you both up if you want." Jason answered eagerly.
"I was thinking that new… Erin?" Krista trailed off as she saw Erin's face. Looking behind her, she saw the same mass of bodies as everyday and turned back. "Um, lady? What's up?" Erin continued to stand there staring. She had seen his face; it had to have been him… Where… frantically she scanned the crowds of people and the sea of faces… There! Leaving her locker wide open and her friends standing there opened mouthed and clueless, she waded through the people and grabbed his arm and spun him around.
"You!" She cried!