Garnet lay on the concrete, shaking, the tangle of her hair obscuring her vision. She heard a scuffle, and the sound of running feet. Her own heartbeat was loud as she waited for Mark to continue his assault. He had probably fallen in his drunken stupor.
She hated that she was waiting, and yet she wasn't sure what else she could do. Her bag had fallen away, the mace rolling out of her grasp. She wasn't a good runner, and she was sure he'd catch her if she tried. Erinye's presence was not something she was aware of, at least not on a conscious level. Garnet knew she wasn't doing a very good job of protecting herself. How could Mark do this? He was an idiot and she couldn't stand him, but she had never thought he'd stoop to this. She was better than he was - just a statement of fact, no bragging. But it all came down to her body. Her lack of strength made anger burn in her veins. The simple fact that physical strength had allowed Mark to shove her down, nothing about who he was or any training he had taken, left her feeling the need to curse her body.
Time was elastic and Garnet had no idea how long it had taken for her to realize that Mark was no longer there. She realized there was no sound of another human, no rustling of clothing, sound of shoes on pavement, no breathing but her own. Pushing her tangled hair back from her face, she turned to look around, wincing at the pain in her shoulder where she'd landed on the pavement.
The street was deserted.
It was almost a letdown in some ways, although that made no sense. She should be happy he was gone, that nothing would happen. Her thinking was muddled, she knew that. Shock they always called it in tv shows.
Slowly Garnet pushed herself to her feet, wincing at the pain in her shoulder. Her wrist ached too and she bit her lip.
Hearing a yell from nearby, she spun, afraid that Mark had come back. There was nobody, but something was happening. She heard strange noises, snarls and the clatter of garbage cans mixed in with sounds of pain. Then nothing.
It was stupid, and her only excuse was that she was still in shock and not thinking. Or maybe the fact that she hadn't been able to rescue herself bothered her enough to make her stupid, wanting to rescue someone else instead. There was something within her that cried out for more, for action. She paused long enough to gather up her purse, the mace remaining forgotten at the side of the street.
Following the direction the noise came from, she took tentative steps. A moment's hesitation, and then she was hurrying. What if Mark was attacking someone else?
Seeing garbage cans that were tipped over, the streetlight painting everything in sharp contrast, Garnet stopped, looking around in confusion. There was no one there, no sign of...
Gagging, she put a hand to her mouth, covering her nose as well. The smell! It was horrible. She had no frame of reference for the smell of split intestines, but he recognized the tinge of meat. She could nearly taste the blood, the copper tang of it in her mouth.
That was when she noticed the pools on the ground. There hadn't been any rain recently, and this wasn't the sort of area where people hosed off anything. Carefully squatting down, she reached out a hand. Her thoughts were muddled, nothing seeming quite real, so the fact that she was reaching out to touch a puddle of... something... and that it could be nearly anything did not quie make it through her brain. Instead she dipped a finger into it.
It was blood. Looking at her fingertip, she could see that. Still faintly warm, she smeared it between finger and thumb. Thick, sticky, already drying on her skin; she had never really touched blood before, at least not blood that wasn't her own. She couldn't look away from the pool on the ground and she found herself dipping her fingers in it again, riveted to the sight of the blood on her skin. Lifting it to her face she sniffed. The smell was faint in the midst of all the other scents in the alley. Her brows drew together slightly and carefully she touched the tip of her tongue to her finger.
The blood on her tongue fascinated her. It didn't disgust her at all. She swallowed, wondering at herself. Instead of wondering what had happened, who had been injured, trying to see if anyone needed help, she was riveted by the pool of blood. She even tasted it!
What was wrong with her? Shouldn't there be a voice inside her freaking out? Shouldn't something inside be ringing alarm bells, warning her she was crazy?
Instead she felt stillness. Readiness. Like whatever usually paced inside her was waiting for something.
It was that stillness within that finally made her push to her feet and start running home. The running didn't last long, but she kept her pace quick. She wasn't afraid of who or what could be on the streets.
This time she was afraid of herself. All she wanted was to get home and forget the whole evening had ever happened. No way was she telling anyone. They wouldn't understand. None of what had happened, not Mark, not the blood, fit within what everyone had planned out for her life. She wasn't sure what any of it meant, didn't know what to think, but she did know that much.
Just as she reached her front door, her breathing hard, she paused to get herself under control and that was when she thought of Erinye. Something told her the other girl would understand.