The First StepMature

Anna was crouched in the thick shrubs that lined the outside of her local park. She was tucked close to a large beech to keep out the constant drizzle. There she waited.

She had got this far without much trouble; her worst fear of running into her father as he stumbled out of the Laying Hen round the corner had not been realised, but she didn't want to relax herself just yet. She was still within a close vicinity of the town and would be easily recognised by any of the locals.

They all knew who she was. She had heard the teachers at school talk about her when she was outside the staff room. 'That poor girl' was her most frequent reference. They often talked of Scarlett too, who had just started primary school. 'That poor tiny thing' they would call her. Anna got frustrated at this at first, but then she soon grew used to the pitying looks and sympathetic mumblings as she walked by. She didn't want pity. In fact she hated the attention it brought her. But what she hated most was that others must have known, or even slight suspicions of what had happened. But no-one ever asked or tried to find out. Things of that nature were left well alone in this town.

Whilst these thoughts whirled around her head in a split second she was all the time carefully watching the silhouette of what looked like a young man. He had been standing by the railings of the park behind the swings for some minutes now, but Anna hadn't seen where he had come from. She stared intently at the figure, trying to make out what they were wearing, what their hair colour was; some defining feature to place him amongst the faces she knew from around the neighbourhood. But the streetlight that stood behind him made it impossible to see anymore than the shadowy silhouette.

Suddenly a blast of laughter and gutteral shouts from the road behind caused her to fall backwards as a quiver of fear rippled over her. The footsteps became louder, so she slowly turned her face to the bushes which faced the road. She could see a group of men, no more than six, kicking a beer can in the middle of the road. As they slowly passed Anna swiftly peered over her shoulder in the direction of the unknown man next to the swings, but he had gone. Anna sighed, half in relief, half in fear. She was then forced to swing her senses back to the group of men as the beer can was kicked against the rails inches away from where Anna was concealed. A jeering shout rang out across the deserted street concealed.

Anna couldn't move. If she did, she would reveal herself to the drunken gang. If she didn't, one of them would certainly see her, and she did not want that to happen. Her body shivered as the man moved closer, tripping up the curb and moving his gaze amongst the bushes. He leant down and stared right where Anna was perched, so close she could smell the alcohol, she could see the warped hunger in his eyes she had seen many times before. At that moment when a focussed realisation began to light his eyes, another of the drunks kicked a can and his back, spraying him with beer. A raucous laugh spread amongst the other men, and the one closest to Anna immediately turned to confront the offender, pushing him and aggressively shouting down his anger.

Anna was so intensly involved in this moment observing the absurd behaviour that alcohol can inflict on the sweetest disposition, she did not hear the muffled footsteps creep behind her and crouch to her level.

A hand grabbed her shoulder.

'Come without a fight, and I won't have to hurt you.'

The End

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