‘Tara, are you okay? You’ve been quiet all day,’ Luke looked at me with worried eyes. We were walking home and I’d barely said a word all day. I had too much going on and thousands of questions were running through my mind. Who was Roman? Why did he want to hurt me? Why didn’t he chase after me outside school? I also felt betrayed and hurt that Rose didn’t believe me, but seeing Roman smile like that made me believe deep down that he probably had something to do with it.
I sighed. ‘I saw Roman again earlier.’ I glanced up at Luke to assess his reaction. His features hardened and his eyes narrowed infinitesimally.
‘Where?’ his voice was stone cold.
‘Outside the school this morning. Rose was acting strange too, it was…’ I hesitated. This was going to sound stupid but I had to tell someone. ‘It was like he was controlling her. I don’t know. It was just strange.’
‘Control her how?’ Luke didn’t sound disbelieving and I felt myself slowly beginning to trust him.
‘Well, this morning it was almost like Rose was…possessed or something. She told me that Roman was coming to get me and that there’s nothing I could do to stop him. Sure enough, seconds later, he’s right there going on about how powerful he is and how I needed to go with him. What I don’t understand though is, when I ran he made no attempt to stop me…’ I trailed off and stared at the ground miserably. My life had taken a dramatic turn for the worse for reasons I didn’t even know.
Luke heaved a deep sigh and when I looked at him, he was frowning and he looked as unhappy as I felt.
‘Don’t worry about things Tara. They’ll sort themselves out, you’ll be fine.’ Without warning, he pulled me into a warm hug. I wrapped my arms around him and leant my head against his chest.
‘Thanks Luke,’ I mumbled. ‘You’ve been really supportive, I appreciate it a lot.’
He pulled away, but kept his hands on my shoulders as he looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I promise, you’ll be okay soon.’ With that, he turned and walked away. I stood staring after him for a while like the previous day before I disappeared inside.
‘Tara! I’m glad you’re home,’ mum greeted me. ‘I actually need you to quickly run to the shop for me and pick up some milk.’
‘Couldn’t you have done that?’ I grumbled, dumping my bag on the floor. Now that Luke had gone I felt cranky and slightly unstable.
‘Just do it for me.’
‘Fine, let me get changed first though.’
I undressed out of my uniform and pulled on some black jeans and a checked shirt. Running a brush through my hair I glanced nervously out of my window, checking for any signs of trouble. I didn’t really want to venture outside in case I ran into Roman but I knew I couldn’t stay inside for the rest of my life.
I applied some mascara and a slick of gloss before heading back downstairs.
‘Here you go,’ mum handed me a five pound note. ‘I want the change!’
‘Of course,’ I replied innocently. Pulling on my jacket for warmth, I started up the driveway.
I didn’t get very far though before that familiar sense of dread crept up my spine. I quickened my pace, casting a nervous look around me to check I was alone. I wasn’t looking where I was going and went right into someone. I cried out automatically, thinking it was Roman but sagged with relief when I saw it was just Luke. My relief instantly turned to mild suspicion though.
‘Luke! You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that! Were you following me?’ my heart was beating ferociously and it took me a moment to calm myself down.
‘No, I wasn’t following you. I was actually on my way to yours to see if you were okay.’ Luke looked genuinely concerned and I instantly regretted accusing him.
‘I’m really sorry,’ I apologised. ’I’m just on edge like you wouldn’t believe. This thing with Roman is really freaking me out.’
‘Yeah I can understand,’ Luke’s face was thoughtful for a split second before he seemed to make his mind up about something. ‘Come take a walk with me.’ Luke offered me his hand and I hesitated for a second. ‘It won’t take long,’ he smiled.
‘Okay,’ I returned the smile and slipped my hand into his.
We started making our way further down the road in silence. I wasn’t quite sure why Luke wanted to walk with me but I didn’t mind. I always felt completely safe in his presence.
‘Where are we going?’ I questioned after about five minutes.
‘I want to show you something.’ Luke’s voice was detached and I peeked up at him to find him staring blankly ahead. I was curious but I didn’t question him. Insane as it might have been I trusted him. Sure I’d known the guy less than a week, but after all he had saved my life.
‘We’re here,’ Luke announced. My eyes grazed over my surroundings. We were standing at the bottom of a hill in front of a wooden gate. Behind that was a massive field, scattered with wildflowers. It seemed to stretch on endlessly, like an incessant sea of greens, yellows and reds. Everything was quiet and peaceful. The edges of the clouds were tipped with orange from the setting sun, like fire slowly consuming it.
‘Yeah, I sometimes come here when I want to escape from the real world and just have some time for myself.’
I stepped forward, pulling my hand out of Luke’s and leant against the wooden fence allowing my eyes to soak in the beauty. Completely entranced in the scene before me, I didn’t notice that Luke had disappeared until I turned to ask him something.
Confused, I looked around calling out his name. That was when someone grabbed me from behind, lifting me off the floor.
I screamed, my thoughts instantly turning to Roman, but a gloved hand muffled my cries. I tried kicking out at whoever it was, but another figure dressed head to toe in black with a balaclava hiding their features grabbed my legs.
They bundled me into a nearby van and I landed with a heavy thud. Someone else in the van pinned my arms behind my back as something sharp jabbed into my arm. I don’t really remember much after that, just terrifying darkness.
The first thing I thought when I woke up was that my head was throbbing. It felt like someone had swung at it with an axe. The second thing I thought, when opened my eyes and took in my surroundings was where the hell was I? Then the panic set in. Had I seriously just been kidnapped? Was I being held hostage? I checked for rope or chains, something to keep me prisoner, but I was free. I was laying on a bed in somebody’s room. It was a very plain room; the walls were beige, the wooden flooring was dirty and there was a simple desk with a chair, this bed and a dust covered window on the far side. That was all.
I tried moving my limbs to see if anything was broken, but I was fine. My next step was trying to escape. I didn’t know where I was; there was no window in the room, but if I could get to the door without being seen or heard I’d be okay.
I gently lowered one foot to the floor, testing for creaky floorboards. When I saw it was safe, I lowered the other and slowly stood up, supporting myself against the wall. My head felt woozy and I had to pause until the room stopped spinning. When the nausea passed, I continued my way to the door, hand extended. My fingers were inches away from the handle when the door swung wide open and revealed a tall figure masked in shadow.
Before I could scream, they spoke in a smooth, calm voice.
‘I see you’re awake.’ They stepped into the dim light of the room, revealing themselves. My eyes widened in horror and I stumbled back in shock when I found myself staring into the eyes of Luke.