A Death Wish

On Friday night, Jacob joined them for dinner.

As he shovelled the food down his gullet, Pamela stared at him. He had a huge bruise on his forehead as if someone had smashed a bottle on it. Her own bruise seemed minor in comparison.

For their part, Mr and Mrs Winters were doing their best to ignore their son in case he upped and left. Remembering the last time Mr Winters had tried to make conversation with his son, Pamela understood why.

After eating, Jacob picked up his plates and dumped them in the sink before pulling on his jacket. As he zipped it up, his gaze met Pamela's and slowly moved to her cheek where the bruise was still visible. He stared at it blankly for a moment before blanching suddenly and leaving the house.

As soon as the door closed, she hurriedly bid goodbye to Mr and Mrs Winters, pretending to go to bed early. In actual fact, she changed into a black trouser and dark blue sweatshirt before sneaking downstairs, past the closed living room door where the Winters were watching TV.

Once outside, she set off towards the secondary school, more cautious now not to be seen. It was possible Jacob wouldn't be there but in that case; Pamela decided she'd immediately turn back.

Once she got to the gates, she climbed over, bending her knees and landing on the balls of her feet this time to absorb the impact. The lights were on in the shed so she knew there was someone there.

The playground only had the occasional tree for cover so she stuck to each of them like glue, darting across the open spaces only when her breathing settled a little. At the entrance of the shed though, she was faced with a dilemma. Two guys were smoking cigarettes and talking in low voices.

Pamela took cover behind the trunk of the nearest tree and listened.

"… The coppers got Bane last week."

"Bane?"

"Yeah. That old guy livin' on Victoria road."

The man laughed. "That old fool. Where'd he keep his stash? In his walkin' stick?"

"In his kitchen, 'pparently," the other man replied solemnly, his voice deep. "Behind the fridge."

"You're jokin'?"

"That's what I heard."

They puffed in silence for a while, and Pamela realised that the smoke didn't smell right. It was a sick, weedy, plant-like smoke.

"What you guys doin' out here?" a girl asked, coming out of the shed.

Pamela glanced at her quickly. She had black hair, which was curled and moved when she moved. Her eyes were framed in dark kohl and her lips were bright, glossy red. She moved towards one of the men and placed a hand on her hip, the bangles jingling on her arm.

"Nothin'," the guy with the deep voice replied and eyed her with interest.

She smiled up at him, dimples appearing on her pretty face. "Nothin' at all?"

The other man stubbed his cigarette out and said, "Let's go back in. It's getting' damn cold."

The girl and the other man seemed like they were going to ignore him, but then the girl moved and they all walked inside.

The man had been right though. It was getting cold and Pamela shivered as she crept closer and looked into the shed through the murky window.

There were fewer people there today. Apart from the girl and the two guys that had just gone in, there were only two other men: one of them was the man Jacob had been talking to last time.

Speaking of Jacob, he was nowhere to be seen. Pamela scanned the shed again, thinking perhaps he was out of her line of vision, but he was definitely not there. Sighing, she glanced behind her and thought she saw a shadow by one of the trees but all was still.

The voices were raised inside the shed. Pamela looked back in and saw the two men arguing. Everyone else was doing their best to ignore them. As she watched, the man with the facial piercing balled his hand into a fist and let rip a volleyball of swears as he punched the other guy, who immediately doubled over in pain.

A rough hand clamped around her mouth suddenly and Jacob whispered in her ear, his warm breath pleasant, "Enjoying yourself?"

-

He said he'd let her go if she didn't scream. She agreed, but once they were over the gate, he slipped his hand under her sweatshirt and held a knife to her back. Pamela gasped at the cold metal and looked at him accusingly, strangely not feeling scared. "What do you want with me? You said you'd let me go if I didn't scream."

He looked at her with his dark blue eyes, almost curiously. His mouth curled up at one corner as he answered, "And I will let you go after you answer a question."

"What question?"

"Just shut up and walk."

Pamela considered arguing but he dug the knife into her skin and forced her into a half-jog, half-walk.

The streets were mostly empty at this time of night, and anyone they did pass took a glance at Jacob and immediately hurried off. He led her to a café a few blocks away and released her so she could sit at one of the tables right at the other end.

Before going to order, he noticed her sneaking looks at the door and warned her, "Don't even think about it. You live in my house, remember? I know where to find you."

She folded her arms and glared at him.

He returned a few minutes later with two mugs of coffee.

"What's this?" Pamela asked, looking at her mug suspiciously. "You treat your victims nice before you beat them up?"

He ignored her and took a sip.

"You know, I totally didn't get you when I moved to your house," she added. "But now I know what a jerk you are." Unintentionally, he looked at her cheek. "Yeah," she continued, noticing the direction of his gaze. "What kind of a guy goes around slapping girls? You've got to hate me a lot to do that."

"Shut up," he said again, running a hand through his hair.

"Make me."

He looked at her, his eyes glittering. "Trust me, you don't want me to."

She raised an eyebrow, folding her arms again, but didn't say anything.

He sighed. "Drink your coffee."

"Or what?"

"You really have a death wish," he muttered.

"No. I have some pride."

"You're making things more difficult for yourself."

She just shrugged, and leaned back in her chair; her brown eyes glaring daggers at him.

Jacob set his mug down and cleared his throat before saying, "Look, I'm sorry about hitting you. I didn't mean to do it."

"Really? What… did you lose control of your limbs or something?" she asked him sarcastically, feeling peeved.

"I'm not going to explain myself to you," he said abruptly before adding, "But I am sorry."

She didn't say anything for a moment. "So what were the questions you had for me?"

"Why have you been following me?"

She shrugged. "No particular reason."

His blue eyes narrowed. "I asked you why you were following me."

Pamela stared at him for a moment, before admitting, "I was curious."

"Curious?"

"About you. About what you're doing every night when you disappear."

"Did my parents put you up to this?"

She was shocked. "What? Of course not. They don't even know I'm out."

Jacob nodded thoughtfully, believing her. "You found out what I was up to last time though. Why did you follow me again?"

Pamela was silent.

"Pamela?" he said. It was the first time he'd used her name and she glanced at him sharply. It scared her how much she liked hearing it coming from him.

"My Dad was busted for smuggling drugs. Did you know that?" she said.

It was his turn to be silent. She looked up but he seemed to be both surprised and curious.

"No," he replied softly.

"Well, I just wanted… I don't know what I want. I don't want you to make the same mistake that he did."

He laughed, but it sounded forced. His eyes were strained as he replied tersely, "Well, thanks for your concern but I know what I'm doing."

"Are you sure?" she asked, looking at him directly.

"Of course I'm sure."

She was about to ask him more, but he interrupted. "I thought your parents were dead."

"My Mum is. My Dad's been released now. He's in hospital."

"What's wrong with him?"

"I'm not sure exactly. The Doctors say he's suffering from a psychiatric disorder."

Jacob gulped some coffee then, his gaze never leaving Pamela.

She took a sip too, and then screwed her nose in distaste. It was lukewarm and lacking sugar. "You know that there is help available, right? They have all these NHS help lines now."

"You think I'm on drugs?" he laughed. "I don't touch that shit."

Pamela raised an eyebrow.

"I don't," he insisted solemnly. "I just deliver the stuff, as you probably know by now."

"What are you doing with the money?"

"That's none of your business," he replied. But after a moment added, "I'm saving it so I can get out of here one day."

"If the police catch you, you know you could be locked away for years, right?"

"The cops aren't going to get me," he said confidently. "Unless you tell them. And I know you won't."

"Says who?"

He shrugged. "You won't."

"I could go right now and tell them everything," she threatened.

He just smiled crookedly and stood up. "You won't," he repeated.

"I'm not scared of you," Pamela said defiantly, although a part of her still was.

"I know. Any normal girl would have stayed away, but you have a death wish, don't you?"

"I will tell the police," Pamela insisted, but the threat was feeble.

Jacob raised a perfect eyebrow but didn't say anything. As he left the café, she thought about what he'd said and reluctantly agreed with him. She knew she wouldn't go to the police, and she also knew she wouldn't tell Mr and Mrs Winters.

There was something about Jacob Winters that made her feel… Alive. Dangerous. Unsafe yet protected. It was a strange combination.

And she couldn't deny that she was starting to feel something other than natural concern for him, either. What that feeling was however, she wasn't sure. All she knew was that when he had said her name, it had sounded nice. Very nice coming from his lips, she admitted and half-smiled as she started heading back to the Winters' place.

Attracted to danger. That was her. Just a regular girl asking for trouble.

Like Jacob had said, she must have a death wish.

Why else would she keep poking her nose into his business?