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Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Step Too Far - Chapter 7

When the text came at three in the morning, Annie immediately felt sick to her stomach.  The desperation somehow communicated through those four simple words.

She should have gone with her instincts.  She knew something was wrong the moment Stephanie stopped taking her calls regularly, but she felt it would be insulting to make a big deal of it.  Stephanie wasn’t the frightened little girl she knew all those years ago.  She was strong, intelligent, capable and confident.  She was a champion and a star.  Everyone needs help sometimes, but to force it on her when she didn’t want it seemed presumptuous.  Maybe Stephanie felt exactly the same way about asking for help…  No use dwelling on what should have been, Annie quickly threw on some clothes and rushed to her car.  Joe’s house was only ten minutes away, less with some extra speed.

Annie pulled up at the side of the road and saw lights were still on in the house and a few cars were parked outside.  Obviously a small gathering, maybe 10 or 12 people.  It made sense, if it was a party and people heard Stephanie was there, it would have flooded into the street and the police would have closed it down hours ago.  She walked to the front door and knocked loudly.  After some stumbling and crashing sounds, it was answered by a very unstable and slurring Joe.  “Well holleefuck if it isn’t Jesus with tits!  Welcome your holiness!”  Annie had heard that nickname before, but never really paid it any heed.  “Hey Joe,” she said perfectly normally “can I come in?” “Stephanie said she was here and I haven’t had a chance to see her since she got back.”  “Of course, of course!  Come in princess!  Must be the first time you’ve ever been to a party with us mortals.”

Annie enjoyed the parties they had when she was younger, just friends, fun, music, dancing, games.  She still enjoyed the same with her close friends, but it seemed whenever the numbers went past a dozen or so, alcohol always found its way into the mix, and there was no fun in spending time with people who weren’t really there.  “Thanks Joe.” she smiled, stepping into the house.

Crudeness didn’t bother her, and if she seemed too worried about Stephanie, he could just not let her in, or cause some other trouble.  She could call the police, but who knows how long they would take, and if the trouble they could cause Stephanie would outweigh the good.

Joe put an overly familiar arm around Annie’s waist and pulled her to his side, half directing her to the living room, half using her for support.  “Little late to be showing up at the party isn’t it?  Or did you just come for the fun part and skip the boring bits, Steph said you could get some action hey?  I always knew you had a naughty side!”  He was clearly high, he wasn’t normally like this, he was normally quite shy.  Annie let herself be led, it’s where she intended to go anyway.

They reached the living area and most of the 10 or 12 people she anticipated were hanging around the couches and floors.  Some already passed out, one trying to play Xbox very poorly while another couple cheered him on enthusiastically.  One couple were having sex right in the corner of the room behind a table, no one else had even noticed it seemed.  Annie saw everyone looked 4 or 5 years older than her, in their early 20s, and clearly there wasn’t a person in the room that wasn’t high as a kite.  Needles were strewn around and traces of white powder were in lines on the table.  That made more sense, it was Joe’s older brother’s friends there and he was just along for the ride.  She’d only seen Joe’s brother a few times before, but he had a reputation.

“Here!” Joe said handing Annie a large cup half full of a brownish liquid with a strong stench of alcohol.  “Only the best for betitted Jesus!”  Normally Annie would have sat him down and just talked for a bit until he sobered up and straightened himself out.   She’d had to do that more times than she could easily recall.  Ever since she was a child she’d always taken care of her appearance, though not to cause an effect, just because it was the dignified thing to do.  At 17 though, even without her long dark hair and emerald green eyes that seemed to look straight into a person’s soul, just the way she carried herself, straight and tall, warm and friendly, always with a bright smile, people couldn’t help but be attracted.  She didn’t have time to help Joe now though, she was here for her friend.

She took the drink politely with a “Thanks”.  “Do you know where Steph is?”
“Probably throwing up, she parties hard!  Common Annie, I was just teasing with the tit-Jesus thing, let me introduce you around.”
“It’s fine, I know.  I’ll just go see Steph is okay and I’ll be right back to meet everyone.” “Where’s the bathroom?” she asked, slipping out of Joe’s arm.  He pointed and she walked briskly toward it.

“Stephanie?” Annie knocked hard on the door. “Are you in there?” The door was unlocked and she walked in to find Stephanie alone, unconscious on the floor.  Quickly checking for a pulse she took out her phone to dial for an ambulance, a pulse was there, if weak.  “God Stephanie” she whispered almost to herself “Stay with me.”  She now regretted trying to be careful and not just barging in.

Annie rolled her into the recovery position, making sure her airway was clear and she was breathing.  Her lips and nails were bluish, her mouth dry and tongue slightly discoloured.  Likely a heroin overdose.  It was bad, but hopefully she arrived just in time, she was breathing and her heart was beating.  Annie let out a small slight sigh of relief and the phone rang, if the ambulance arrived soon she should be - Annie crashed into the floor, her phone flying from her hand and a pain shooting up her spine from a shoe stomped hard against her back.  “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” yelled an angry male voice behind her.

Annie rolled onto her back and saw Joe’s brother Evan standing over her, she was disoriented from the shock and hitting her head against the floor, but she knew he must have thought she was calling the police.  They’d all end up in jail. “I’m not calling the police!  Just the ambulance, she’s overdosed!”  He stomped on her phone and it shattered under the force.  “Are you fucking insane calling the police in my house?” Annie tried to push herself up, she had to calm him d - his punch landed against her face, knocking her hard to the ground.  “Joe!” Annie called as loudly as she could muster, it was the only thing she could think do.  Evan knelt over her and grabbed her throat, “Shut up bitch!”  Annie was choking and started to panic, Stephanie was dying!  The thought hit her from nowhere, she was dying too.

She mustered all her strength, grabbing his arm with both of hers and rolling over hard.  Although much larger than her, unprepared and in his drugged state, he lost his balance and fell to the floor, letting go of Annie’s neck.  “Ple…” she tried to talk, if she could just make him realise she wasn’t trying to get him arrested, but her throat seized and she had to try again.  He jumped back on top of her and reached back for another punch.  “Evan!  What the fuck?!” Joe yelled leaning against the bathroom door.  “Stephanie is dying! We have to call an ambulance!” Annie blurted out as quickly as she could.  Evan covered her mouth with his hand, holding her arms in his other.  “Your bitch girlfriend was calling the police!  Do you have any idea how fucked we would be?”  Annie struggled to say something and Evan shifted his position to put a knee in her sternum, pressing hard.  She yelped under his hand, but couldn’t manage any more.

“Settle down man, you’re hurting her!”, Joe’s last word got cut off as he was shoved into the wall and into unconsciousness by a larger man behind him, “Who the fuck called the police?” Steve asked.  “This little slut tried, I stopped her, she wanted to fuck us over ‘cause she wasn’t getting enough attention!”  Annie felt tears forming in her eyes, she could hardly move, she couldn’t talk, her friend was dying right next to her, it seemed a thousand ideas flooded through her mind, all of them worthless.  Anger overwhelmed her, a feeling she’d only really felt once before, but that time 7 years ago she chose to be angry, this time it just came.  The tears stopped and her eyes glared up at Evan, she wasn’t going to lie here and die, she wasn’t going to let this useless bastard stop her from saving her friend!  She pulled her arms apart with all her force and kicked sideways again to break lose.

The pain was excruciating, he pressed his knee hard into her and twisted her right arm around, till her shoulder popped and she let out an agonised scream.  Her eyes were wild with fear and she started to tremble, she knew how this was likely to end, she just had to hope they’d both make it through the night alive.

Evan reached down to her belt. “No, that’s a bad idea,” the other man said.  “You rape her, you gotta kill her, if her call rang even once and she’s raped and dead, they’ll know her last call came from near here.”  “Oh fuck off man!  It’s too late now, if she’s alive, I go to jail as it is.  Might as well earn my time there.” He pressed his knee down hard again to make his point, Annie could only squeal. “Dude, don’t be fucking retarded.  I don’t need two dead girls on our hands!  We’re fucked if we do that!  Look, we dump Stephanie at a hospital, no one did anything to her.  If she dies and they somehow tie it to us, she got high on her own drugs, we took her to hospital, not our problem!  If she lives and even remembers she was here, well we saved her!”

“And what about this bitch with the broken arm?”

“Annie right?” Steve directed his words to her.  She nodded.  “You want you and your friend to live, you’re going to fucking say nothing.  We get you a bit high, dump you at the hospital with her, and nothing happened here.  Right?”  Evan took his hand from her mouth. “Please,” she pleaded, “I just wanted to help Stephanie, I don’t care about a broken arm, please just hurry!”

Steve picked up Stephanie like a sack and walked out of the room, “Heroin’s on the kitchen table”.  Evan grabbed Annie and marched her out “Not a fucking sound.”  She complied.  He quickly drew liquid from a container in the kitchen into a clean needle and went out to the car.  No one in the house so much as turned their heads.

Stephanie, still breathing, lay in the back, Steve at the drivers seat, Evan sat holding Annie in the passenger’s seat.  “Stay fucking quiet and don’t move,” he said, pressing the needle into her right arm.  Annie was numb, she didn’t dare do anything.  She was fine, a broken arm heals, pain goes away, drugs wear off, her friend has a chance to make it.  She’d never felt helpless for a moment in her life, she was always in control of herself at least, even when things around her were out of her control.  Now she just sat there, hoping.  She felt the liquid enter her body.

Evan was angry.  This was the safest course of action, but he was looking forward to a few hours of fun.  Now it was blue balls and worrying about if it all works out.  He took advantage of the seating position - Annie on his lap - to at least get a good feel all over, and get himself off against her.  Slightly less blue balls.  He figured she’d either talk or she wouldn’t, this wouldn’t make the difference between the two.  She may not even remember it at all.  After an initial slight twitch and gasp, she didn’t even react.

Annie felt what he was doing to her, but was too numb to care.  It didn’t matter.  He could have raped her, if Stephanie lives and this works out, she didn’t care.  If she lives too, that’s a bonus.  She felt useless, relying entirely on these two druggies and rapists for her and her friend to survive.  But it looked like they were going to make it through after all.  If she never saw the text, never came to help, never entered the bathroom and never got beaten, broken, drugged and abused, Stephanie would likely still be there, unnoticed, left to die by the morning.  It wasn’t a well planned success, but still, she achieved what she set out to achieve.  She felt Evan finish under her.  It was disgusting, degrading, her just sitting there while this was done to her, knowing anything she did could ruin everything.  But it degraded him more than her.  She was here to save her friend’s life.  He was a slave to drugs, his penis and his own mind.  Tomorrow she would be herself again, and he would be himself.  She almost felt sorry for him as the effect of the drug started to kick in.

They were 15 minutes into the drive and Annie started to shake, first a little, then harder.  “Evan, what the fuck are you doing to her?”

“Nothing!  She’s just going off!”

Annie’s mind was going wild, images filled her head, dark, twisted images that stepped out of her head and into the world around her.  Swinging at her, clawing at her!  They were moving so fast, they weren’t even on a road any more, her head was being pumped full of something, it was going to burst.  She couldn’t see any more!  Just darkness, but the screeching sounds grew around her.  She could just make out the words between the sounds.

“I think she’s ODing!”
“What the fuck? That’s impossible, you just gave her one shot of heroin right?”
“No!  Not even, I gave her a shot of the water on the kitchen table, I put a couple of roofies in it earlier, I thought that would be better, so she’d forget!”

“You fucking what?!” He swore incoherently at Evan for a minute, unable to coordinate his thoughts.  “You fucking, useless God damn moron!  I put half our ‘cid in there!”
“Why the fuck, how the fuck was I supposed to know?”
“Shit, shit, shit.”  He floored the accelerator, racing the last few miles to the hospital.

She was overdosing.  Amid the sea of confusion she understood what was happening.  Her chest seized up.  Tears filled her eyes again, it couldn’t be!  They’d almost made it!  Both of them, how could this be it?  She wasn’t ready to go.  All her friends, Stephanie, even her own mother, indifferent as she was, was never truly bad to her.  All lost, everything she’d dreamt of, gone.  And just like this, helpless in a car, by accident, by the man who spent her last moments grinding against her.  She could still make it - more importantly, Stephanie could still make it.  She clung to that thought.  She always achieved what she intended, tonight she intended to save her friend and even if she had no say in it what happened now, even if she died, she hadn’t failed yet.

“Pull over!” Evan called. “What?” “Man, pull over!  This is fucked, we fucked it.  We gotta just dump their bodies and go!  Who knows who will be there when we get to the hospital?  We’re screwed, this was a crazy plan!”
“Christ.” Steve turned off the main road to an exit near a park and pulled in.  Together they took both girls out of the car and dumped them on the grass in plain sight.  There was no use trying to hide them.  “This is fucked, we’re so screwed!” “Just fucking go!  We just go home, clean the fuck up, get everyone out, nothing even happened!”

Annie screamed at the top of her voice.  “No!  No please!  You can’t!  Take her to the hospital!  Leave me, take her!  She doesn’t even know anything!  HELP HER PLEASE!”  But the only sound that came out was a trembling whimper.  It was all in her head.  “Listen to me!  Please!  You don’t need to do this!  You can still save her!”  She heard the car doors slam and the tyres screech as they drove away.

They were alone.  She couldn’t feel her body any more, just that it was cold.  She thought she must be lying next to Stephanie, but couldn’t tell if they were touching, or far apart.  Her mind was racing and reeling, the sounds and images only getting stronger, but she fought as hard as she could to remain lucid.  She had to call for help, to get up, to get Stephanie’s phone!  Nothing happened.  Her body was out of her control, motionless, but she was sobbing inside.  She worried her friend was suffering as she was, alone, afraid.  Did Stephanie even know she was there for her?

She’d failed her.  She failed her when she didn’t enquire harder what was wrong months earlier.  She failed her when she didn’t insist on breaking through the walls she was putting up as time passed.  She failed her when she didn’t just fly out straight to her and find out what was happening.  When she didn’t call the police as soon as she got the message, when she didn’t run straight past Joe to find her, when she didn’t have any backup plan, when she was so arrogant she - a 17 year old girl - walked into a strange house full of strange older men high on drugs and didn’t think what could happen.  When she chose to stop resisting and hope it would all work out.  Every step of the way she failed her to the end.  She wailed hopelessly in her own mind.

They were discarded like trash.  As Annie faded into oblivion, she remembered the look on Stephanie’s face when she first saw her after she had read the math story.  She remembered how Gary always looked at her with the kind of love she’d always thought her father may have had for her, had she ever known him.  And the feeling of a man she never knew, touching her all over, grinding against her, as she sat there helpless, as she and her friend were taken to their deaths.

The bright, emerald green of Annie’s eyes and the warmth of her smile would never light a room again.

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