Truth Be Told

By: Holly Ryan

He grabs my hand at the wrist and twists it around. He still has a smile on his face, one that reaches almost to his ears. “Oh, come on. Come on.”

I place my hand on top of his, using my fingers to try to pry myself free. “Let go of me.”

He doesn’t release me, but he does loosen his grip a little. Then he moves us both back toward the wall. “Come on.” With his free hand, he reaches back into his pocket and pulls the money out again. “This is more than two hundred dollars. Right here.” He shakes it. “Don’t you need two hundred dollars?”

“No, I don’t, and let go of me!” Try as I might to sound brave, my determination is no match for his strength. As I twist in his grasp, he coils around me like a vine; it’s clear that he has me, and he won’t be letting go any time soon.

Then, in a flash of movement, he releases his pent-up fury and throws the money on the ground. It lands next to where I’d gotten sick. He shakes his head. “Look, I’m being nice here. Don’t make me–”

He’s interrupted by the distinct sounds of someone approaching. Eagerly, I peer past his shoulder. Two other men have broken off from the crowd and are making their way over to us, their expressions curious and confused. They must have heard me raise my voice.

Thank God. I let out a sigh of relief. If he’d kept this up, my next move would have been to scream, and that’s something I’d rather not have to do. Screaming would have made it official. It would have meant I’m really in trouble, that I really am being… attacked.

Immediately, he releases me and takes a step back. My hand falls to my side and I rub at my wrist where he’d held me. It’s sore.

“What’s up?” one of the men asks, the question directed to neither of us in particular. He comes to a stop in front of us, along with his friend.

The man in front of me answers for me. “Nothing at all. Just working out a deal with the lady here.”

“A deal, huh?” the same man says. I squint as I analyze the tone in his voice. He sounds either intrigued or suspicious. I pray it’s the latter.

“There’s no deal,” I say quickly, stepping forward. The look in my captor’s eyes let me know he wants to stop me, but he doesn’t dare with witnesses around. “I’d like to go back now.”

I’m safe. I have to be. There are two other people here with me, three total now, and they can’t all be bad. Can they? I move forward again, only to bump into one of their unmoving bodies. I look up. The alcohol on this man’s breath hits my eyes. He’s much taller than the first man, and as they both return my gaze, all I can see are their spacey, piercing eyes shrouded in dark circles. One of them has a smirk playing at the corner of his mouth. My lungs rise and fall in a way they never have before, and my throat tightens as though I need to cry. I swallow the feeling away. I extend a hand behind me as I back up, my fingertips feeling for the wall but hoping for enough space to move. I start to shiver, either from the freezing cold or the fear; it’s impossible to say which because both are pulling at every inch of my body.

The two newcomers start to inch closer, and now there’s mischief in all three pairs of eyes.

When I hear my own voice, it’s full of trembling. “Please move,” is all I can say. I don’t mean to say it, especially the please part, but it’s all that comes out. I immediately regret it. I just said please to these jerks? Get it together, Stella. You know how to defend yourself. Remember what you learned at the academy. But I can’t. I reach for the memories, in the back of my mind, and come back empty-handed. And I try to scream, but the trembling has evolved into silence.

Their response is to finish closing in on me, and one of them extends a hand toward me, possibly making for my neck. I recoil. I want to sink away. I want to be anywhere but here.

I’m about to do just that – sink down against the wall that I’ve been backed against, simply because there’s nowhere else to go, when I spot another shimmer of movement.

“Please,” I think to myself, and I don’t realize I’ve spoken it out loud until it’s already left my lips. I have no idea who this person is, but I’m begging the universe for this to be someone who will help me.

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