I turned my head.
It was definitely a girl's scream. A young girl's.
I dropped my water bottle and running towards them. The men were pushing her around in a little circle. I saw her fall.
I broke into a sprint. When I reached them, the little girl was in the arms of a man whom was wearing a stained white tank top and had some stubble of a beard. I caught his eye, and he loosened his grip on the girl. The man pushed her aside onto the dirt and sauntered towards me, making a crooked smile, taunting me, as if he wanted to fight me.
I straightened myself up. This low-life thought he could take me on. Haha.
"Leave her alone."
The man cocked his head. His friends walked up, creating a semi-circle behind him, and they all were looking at me. One was still roughly holding onto the girl's arm whom was still on the ground.
"I don't think so. Run along, child."
It's one thing if Caroline treats me like one, but for some stranger to call me a child? My self control was suddenly lost. I felt the fury building up inside me. Before I realized my fist was clenched, I swung at his face and heard a crack. Did I just break his nose? I hope so.
The man fell over onto the dirt and was cupping his nose with his hands. His friends dropped the girl's arm, broke out of the semi-circle and went over to the man. They were distracted by him, trying to help him up.
I used this as a diversion. Grabbing the girl's hand, I started running as fast as the girl could go away from the gang of men.
"Stop him!" I heard the man say.
Still running, I turned my head and saw the man pointing at me with his bloody hand while the other one still on his nose.
This made me want to run faster. The girl couldn't run as fast, though. This was going to slow us down. I swung her onto my back and put her arms around my neck. She automatically wrapped her legs around my torso.
I started running again. I took a risk and turned my head back again and realized that I lost them. Just for good measure, I kept running.
If I was alone, I would go back and beat them up. I wasn't afraid of them. My only concern was for the little girl on my back. I couldn't take the men on and watch the girl at the same time. I could've been so into fighting one guy that I wouldn't notice if another guy was hurting the girl. So the best idea I came up with was, take the girl somewhere safe.
Who knows where those men are? What if they're still following us? I shook my head. I doubt it.
I slowed down to a walking pace. The anger was still strong inside me that I didn't risk talking and saying something hurtful to the girl. I mean, what I would've said to her wouldn't have been wrong.
Are you stupid? What were you thinking? Why didn't you run away when you could? What's wrong with you?
I heard a whimper. She rested her chin on my left shoulder. I turned my head toward's her direction, opening my mouth planning to say something. Nevermind. I turned my head back and just continued walking.
Funny how this girl reminded me of Caroline. Defenseless, gullible, and weak. I let out a loud laugh ignoring the girl's confused expression.
Exactly, where am I planning to go? I hadn't realized that I didn't know where I was going. My only thought, at the moment, was getting away from those creeps. I guess I'll just bring this girl to my house for a while. I didn't know where where she lived, and I wasn't planning on asking her, yet. I made a sudden turn left, back to where my house was.
I was pretty sure those guys aren't anywhere near us anymore, but I still didn't want to risk putting the girl down and making her vulnerable. She didn't seem to mind being carried, anyway.
When I got to the front porch of my house, I set her down and unlocked the door with the key from the plant. I opened the door and extended my hand to welcome her in. Her eyes were red, and puffy. It didn't take long for me to realize she was crying on my shoulder, which I suddenly noticed was somewhat moist. She looked at me, slightly confused, and hesitated to go inside.
I questioned myself why she so scared to go inside. Wasn't I the one that saved her?
Oh. I'm just as much of a stranger as those creeper men.
"It's okay," I whispered. The only words I let myself slip out.
She walked inside and stood off to the side of the door to let myself in.
I closed the door and looked at her. She seemed more content. Her small fingers were entwined and rested on her stomach.
I stood there looking at her with my hand on my hip.
Why did I even bring her here? What am I going to do with her, anyway? Isn't it hospitable to offer your guests a drink? I guess I should do that.
I motioned with my hand for her to come into the kitchen. She followed me slightly off to my side. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her curiously looking around in my house.
When we reached the kitchen, she sat herself onto a stool and folded her hands on top of the counter, swinging her feet.
It was silent as I poured her a glass of orange juice and handed it to her. The girl took the glass and chugged it all, quickly, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
I chuckled under my breath. Well, isn't she thirsty.
I reached for her glass, and eyed her. She nodded.
While I was pouring her second glass of orange juice, I decided that it was alright for me to talk to her. I sat down across from her.
"So, why in the world were you alone with those... people?"
Those vile men didn't deserve to even be called 'people'. I would've called them pigs, but the pigs would've been offended.
She took the glass from my hand and shrugged.
"I ran away."
It surprised me how nonchalantly she said this.
"I ran away from my mom's and new her boyf- er, husband's wedding. After changing out of my dress, I just ran."
Did I hear right? She ran away from a wedding? How rebellious. This little girl was crazy. I stared at her.
She took a sip from her glass and looked up.
I suddenly remembered all the from cars earlier.
"Is that where all those cars were going? To your mother's wedding?"
She dropped her glance with me and nodded slowly. The girl was circling her tiny finger along the rim of the glass, saying nothing.
It was obvious that she didn't like the idea of her mother's and new father's wedding. I know I wouldn't have.
"What is your name?"
"Hello, Elaine. I'm John."
It was probably a little late for greetings, but it's not like I could've done it earlier.
She didn't say anything. She kept her eyes on her orange juice. How traumatized this girl is, I would never know. I felt so sorry for her. This little girl didn't deserve any of this. My thoughts about this girl changed drastically from earlier to now. I was so glad I decided to wait before I opened my mouth.
"Elaine? Listen to me, now, okay?" I said slowly.
She raised her head.
"I want you to tell me if any of those... men did anything harmful to you."
I stared at her until I got an answer.
"No. They didn't do anything to me."
They were about to, I thought.
My pity for this little girl was overwhelming. I've always had a protective side.
"Please be careful, Elaine."
"They didn't do anything to me." She repeated, trying to reassure me.
I must've been showing my emotion on my face, because she obviously knew what I was feeling.
"They could've hurt you! Do you even have the slightest clue of what they were probably going to do to you?"
I realized I was suddenly standing up. She was leaning away from me in her stool, frightened. I sat back down and tried to seem more calm. Why was I feeling so protective of this random stupid stranger I just met?
It was because she reminded me of Caroline.
I covered my face with my hand and sighed. Calm down. She's just a kid.
I let my hand drop revealing my face.
"Should I take you home?"
She shook her head. "I have no way to get inside my house. There's no one home, yet." She looked back down at her glass, studying the intricate details.
I took a deep breath and took a look at her, trying to figure her out.
She was quite tiny for how old she looked. I guessed around 12. Probably around 4'7 and less than 80 pounds. Her face was round. Still youthful. Her thick straight chocolate brown hair, split on the left was covering the sides of her face, making it seem less round. Her long eyelashes and thin, angular brows were a few shades darker than her hair. Her thin red long sleeved shirt went down to her knuckles. It had dirt on it, due to her falling in the dirt. Her eyes were a light blue-grey color, contrasting against her dark lashes. Her lips were fairly thin. In between them, she was chewing on her thumb nail. A sign of nervousness.
A ringing broke silence. Elaine pulled out her phone, glanced at who was calling, and flipped it open.
My mouth fell open. Was she serious? Why didn't she call anybody when she was in trouble?
"Hello? Yeah. Yeah. I'm at... a friend's house." I raised my eyebrow. She probably said that to reduce whoever she was talking to's anxiety as to where she is.
She glanced at me.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry! Mom! No, you don't need to do that! I know! I'm okay! I won't do it again. Okay." Elaine hung up.
She noticed my expression and filled in the answers to my unsaid questions.
"That was my mom. She was wondering where I was and if I was okay."
I heard the a door open. It was Caroline. She was back from work. She looked over to Elaine and smiled big.
"Well, hello! John, who is this?" My mother was always ecstatic about meeting new people. Well, maybe this time it was fake enthusiasm.
Elaine hopped out of her stool and held out her hand to Caroline. "I'm Elaine Grigsby."
Caroline shook her hand with both of hers. "Hello, Elaine! I'm John Staffield's mother. You can call me Caroline." She let go of her hand and looked in between Elaine and me. "Well, I have quite a bit to do, but it was nice meeting you!" She smiled back to Elaine. Before she left, she eyed me. I'd have to answer some questions later.
"You too, Caroline"
Elaine jumped back onto her stool and looked at me.
"As I was saying, my mom wants me back home. They'll be there in about 10 minutes."
I nodded. "I'll take Caroline's car."
I got out of my stool and grabbed Caroline's keys.
"Mom, I'm taking Elaine home!"
"Sure," she shouted back.
We went outside in the garage. I unlocked the car and Elaine let herself into the passenger's seat.
She wasn't too hard to figure out. Elaine was rebellious. She didn't like to rely on others. She was also very self dependent. It also seemed as if she wasn't good at making conclusions or realizing things. She didn't realize the trouble she'd cause when she ditched the wedding. She didn't realize what those men were going to do to her. She was gullible, but she knew what to do and what to say at certain times.
I got into the car and started it. Opening the garage, she automatically told me where she lived and the directions.
As I was driving there, I was wondering how furious her mother was going to be with her, how she just left the wedding. How furious is her mother going to be when she sees her young daughter in the car of a 16 year old boy? Is she going to jump to conclusions about me? If I was her parent, I know I would've. I would've assumed the same thing about me that I assumed about those men.
The road became opaque with trees. The branches were blocking the sky from our view; they were hovered over the road as if they were connected. The house wasn't in a neighborhood. It stood alone. The house was nearly hidden behind all of trees but once I could see past them, the house became visible. It wasn't as big as I expected. It was a simple two story house built with bricks. The porch although was wooden.
When I drove into the driveway, I saw someone walk out of the front door. Her mother.
Elaine and I got out of the car.
Her mother was furious. I already knew what she was assuming. She yanked her daughter away from my side and glared at me. The way she pressed her teeth together I could tell she was getting ready to yell at me.
Oh boy. Here we go.