The sun was just beginning to rise as Sapphire shivered in the chill of the early morning. She wrapped her thin jacket around her figure more tightly as she made her way through the seemingly deserted streets; her favorite shortcut to school. The only sounds she could hear were the pitter-patter of her feet and the birds as they sang their morning wake-up call.
Sometimes, Sapphire would join the birds with their singing; always a different tune on her lips. Occasionally, her feet would join in on the fun as well and the pitter-patter would become more rhythmical as she walked. She would always stop singing after a few moments as if to revive her stamina. Then, after a few long minutes of silence, she would start up again.
On one of these events, her singing stopped rather abruptly as did her feet. One day, she had come across a young man on her once deserted street. He stared at her strangely-which Sapphire felt was due to her off-key singing-and quickly darted off in another direction. Ever since that day, she never fully felt alone as she made her morning walk. She hadn't seen the young man again after that, but she was still cautious as she walked.
Her singing was quieter and she felt more on edge than usual as she made her way through the streets once more. Her eyes would dart back and forth warily before she would start to do one of her crazy, little dances. She found, though, that as the feeling of being watched came, the amusement of the dance left. She quickly stopped the dance, but continued to sing. The singing gave her the false hope that maybe she really was alone on the seemingly deserted street.
Her hopes were shattered as she came across three of her classmates. They were seniors, all male, and all significantly larger than her. They were notorious for being troublemakers and were planning on skipping school as Sapphire walked past them. She walked quickly with her head down as she passed; all they while praying that they wouldn't notice her.
"Hey, little girl," came the boisterous words that shattered her hopes once again. She didn't stop or reply; she just kept going in the hopes that they would give up. They didn't, instead they surrounded her. She had one to the left and the right of her and one walking backwards in front of her; all of them had these irritating grins on their faces. "Where you headed?"
"School," Sapphire squeaked without any inclination that in this kind of situation, it might be best to lie.
"Nah, you don't want to go there," the boy said in what Sapphire supposed was meant to be a friendly tone. Instead, it left her feeling cold on the inside. "It's boring there."
"It's required," she squeaked once more. This caused the boy's expression to change and his eyes to flash. He stopped in the middle of the street. Sapphire pulled herself to a halt as well, before she could come face to face with the boy's chest. As the boy glared down at her, she realized that she was surrounded and had no way of escape.
"You know what, Saph?" the boy spoke, startling her by using her nickname. An unsettling grin broke out across his face as he spoke. "You need to get out more; have some fun."
"I'm good, thanks," she squeaked as she debated whether or not she could escape by using one of the spaces between the boys. She took a chance and bolted out of the cage they had made around her. She made it only a short distance when she was pulled back by her arm. The boy took her and held her up against the wall; his friends on both sides.
"Where do you think you're going?" the boy asked, still attempting that friendly tone as his eyes flashed angrily. "And just when I was having so much fun talking to you. That really hurts, you know." Sapphire could feel the boy's hot breath on her face as he spoke; his face just inches from her own. He held a death grip on her wrists as he pushed her knuckles into the wall behind her.
"What are you doing?" Sapphire cried out. Her voice seemed to have found more courage as she sensed her end was near. Scenes of her life flashed through her mind; her mom in the kitchen making breakfast, her little brother and sister fighting for the remote, her dad coming home from work with his clothes covered in stains.
"Just showing you how to have a little fun," the boy said in answer to the question that she had long since forgotten. She was silent as the boy began to kiss her neck; working up to her last resort. She was useless in a fight; she had no punch and no kick, but there was one thing she could do. Her eyes were vacant as she took a deep breath. For once, she was wishing that the street wasn't so deserted, but she took a chance anyways. Sapphire screamed as loud as her lungs could manage.
The boy stopped her scream short by placing his mouth on hers. His friends became more alert as they did their lookout. Sapphire watched with dead eyes; she did all she was physically able to and now began to accept her fate. She closed her eyes and waited for the pain to come.
"Someone's coming," on the boy's friends warned. "But he doesn't look like too much of a threat. We can take him." The boy never even paused in his work as his friend spoke.
"What's going on here?" a male voice asked. Sapphire's eyes flew open as she took in her possible savior. Her eyes widened as she who he was; the young man from before.
"Nothing you should concern yourself with," the boy answered. He reluctantly let go of Sapphire who fell to the ground, limp with shock. She could only watch at the three teenagers turned on the young man. She wanted to tell him to run and leave her behind, but instead he just stared at her with his eyes flashing.
"You mess with that girl in the middle of the street during daylight hours and I happen to pass by; it suddenly concerns me," the young man glared at the teenage boys. "Funny how that works."
"You don't stand a chance against us," the boy boasted. Even in her dull, shocked state, Sapphire could see the truth of his words. There was a ratio of three to one; the odds were not in the young man's favor. But regardless of that pessimistic fact staring him right in the face, he began to fight.
Sapphire could only watch in horror as they lunged themselves at the young man. She was surprised to see the first friend fall, soon followed by the second friend. The young man saved the worst of last and Sapphire watched as the two began with a stare-down.
The boy was more difficult to defeat than the first two. The young man couldn't tell how much of that was because of the boy's skills of that the young man was letting his anger get the best of him. He hadn't realized how angry he was until he had to face the reason for his anger.
The boy stood in front of him; the smug look on his face only slightly dwindled from watching his friends fall. He still thought that he had a chance as he dodged a few punches. He even managed to get one punch in, himself. He might have won if he hadn't succumbed to his worst weakness; arrogance.
"Don't worry, sweetie," his smug voice call out to Sapphire. "I'll get done with this piece of crap and then we can have some fun." He turned to look at her for a split second as if to make sure she was still there and the young man had his opening. He threw a punch at the unsuspecting boy and knocked him to the ground. He didn't stop there; he threw a few more punches to make sure that the boy had learned his lesson. And then, almost as if he had just remembered himself, he stopped.
Sapphire watched him warily as he looked on at the three boys groaning in pain as they rolled around in the street. His eyes were wide as if he couldn't believe what had just happened; what he had just done. He turned to face her and he also became wary. He was afraid of what she would think of him, the man who had just taken down three decent sized teenage boys with his bare hands.
"Are you okay?" the words came out of Sapphire's mouth without much thought of the effect that it might have on the young man. "He hit you, didn't he?" The young man walked closer to her and fell on his knees beside her. His jaw was a bit swollen and his eyes were opened wide.
"I'm fine," he answered her. He took her chin in his hand and began to examine her for any marks or bruises. "How are you feeling?"
"F . . . fine," she answered quietly, her eyes never leaving his face. She watched as he became satisfied knowing that she wasn't beat up too badly. "I'm still in shock, I guess."
"That's understandable," the young man said. He frowned as he took her hands and saw her knuckles bloody from being scraped against the wall. His frown deepened as his eyes moved down to her wrists. Bruises that encircled both wrists were beginning to form.
"I'll heal," she assured him. His eyes were hard as he looked back into her eyes. "You saved me from the worst of it. Thank you."
"Why do you take this path every day?" the young man asked, furrowing his eyebrows as he tried to understand.
"It's quiet," she answered and after some thought she added, "Well, it used to be."
"Don't you ever get the feeling that it's unsafe?" he continued. "You're all alone on a deserted street, with no one to hear you scream."
"I never felt that way until today," Sapphire answered honestly. Her savior's frown remained as he stood up and held out his hand for her to take.
"Come on," he invited. "Let's get you to school before it's too late." She easily took his hand and followed him through the streets. "Are you going to continue to take that path?"
"Depends on whether or not someone's there," came her stranger reply. They young man stopped as they got to the school, but didn't let her go.
"I'll always be here," the young man smiled at her slightly. She looked up at him in confusion, but he just shook his head and led her to the door. "See you after school, Sapphire." And with that he disappeared out into the street.