“You fucking creep!” she screamed.
I just sat there, staring at the glass of water in front of me. I was used to this type of thing by now. Things always ended up like this anyway.
“Ugh, you know how freaking long it will take me to get back home?”
“Not even gonna say anything? You play it all nice and smooth with that fake picture of yours, saying you’re going to meet up with me here and now you don’t even have the balls to speak up? You pathetic loser!”
She even grinned for a moment as she threw the insult at me.
Another customer of the small dinner got up. He was an older man. His attire screamed blue-collar.
“Now, now, young lady, what’s going on here?”
“That freak over there pretended to be someone else! He called me all the way out here on a date and, god! How’d I be so stupid?”
His eyes wandered from her to me. They weren’t compassionate anymore, no, now they showed nothing but contempt.
“Well young man, you’ve got some explaining to do!”
I still stared at the glass of water. My throat felt like it was clenched shut.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” he yelled at me.
By now, the whole place stared at the awkward scene with me right in the center.
“I didn’t,” I started but broke up.
“Too embarrassed to even speak, eh?”
Once more, I couldn’t find the words.
“Yes, sorry mom, it’s gonna be at least another hour. No, I’m fine, just some weirdo. No, I didn’t see Anna today. What? No, it’s alright, I’ll just take the train. Yes, I’m on my way.”
I listened to each of her words and smiled. At least an hour, good, I thought.
“Now what are you smiling about, boy?”
The blue-collar man still didn’t let off. Finally, I pushed myself past him, and awkwardly made my way to the door.
“What was that all about?” I heard a young woman whisper to her friend.
“Guess he catfished her or something?”
“Ewww, that’s so creepy!”
I didn’t listen to their words. They didn’t know a damned thing!
‘Why did you hurt mommy?’
‘What? The hell are you talking about pipsqueak?’
‘I saw it, you hit her, and she was crying.’
‘How the hell would you see something like that?’
I didn’t even see his slap coming. He stared down at me, his eyes furious.
‘Linda, did you tell the boy?’
‘N-no, of course not, why’d I ever-‘
‘Ugh, shut up, bitch!’
I still lay on the floor, my face hot with pain. I listened as dad got up and made his way to the kitchen.
I jerked away in my seat. The old lady opposite me looked over before she mumbled something to herself.
Why’d I remembered something like that now, dammit? Now where am I, I wondered? As I stared outside and read the name of the station, I sighed. It would still be another half hour before I’d be home. I checked the time on my phone again and saw that it was already eleven in the evening. Shit, and I got an early shift tomorrow.
Work was hard that day. I’d barely gotten five hours of sleep, and it was the busiest time of the year. I slumped through the warehouse, sorting shelves and repackaging products with my eyes only half-open.
“Hey, yeah you! There’s some trash over here with your name on it!” one of my older coworkers called out to me.
Laughter from a few of my other colleagues erupted.
I sighed, and without making eye contact, I stumbled to where he was pointing. It really sucked to be the new guy on the job. As I was busy cleaning up the mess that he’d most likely caused by him, I heard them talk behind my back.
“The hell’s wrong with him? Does he ever say a word?” one of them asked in a hushed voice.
“Dunno, think he’s mentally challenged or something,” another voice chimed in.
“Just leave the boy be,” a third one added.
“Why are you so concerned about him?”
“Just don’t want him to snap and shot the place up.”
“Hah, as if that pussy’d be ever able to pull something like that!”
Laughter erupted again. You know, I can hear every single word you’re saying, I thought. Shit, who am I kidding, I bet they knew, too.
After six more hours, my shift finally ended. The bus ride from work took me about half an hour. Day after day, I spent it glued to the screen of my phone.
I opened up the first of the many dating apps I’d installed. I swiped through the countless girls one by one, staring at their pictures. Long hair, short hair, happy smile, confident smile, group of girls, on and on it went.
It took me about five minutes to find one. She was pretty, long blond hair and had a shy, somewhat playful smile.
In a moment I opened the chat window and threw her one of the many one-liners I knew by heart now.
I was already home when she finally replied. The new picture I’d chosen worked wonders. For half an hour, we were joined in mindless chit-chat before I finally asked her if she had plans for the evening.
She was a bit reluctant to answer. It was always the same. I sent her a few more of my rehearsed lines, boosting her confidence, soft-soaping her and pushing more lies down her throat. She was an easy one, it took me no more than a few minutes to get her to agree to the date. I fell back on my bed as relief flooded my face.
I checked the phone once more. It was still a few hours before I’d got to go. Guess I’ll set the alarm and take a nap. Wasn’t like I had to dress up or prepare for the date.
Mom was cryingin the other room while dad’s fist came down on my face once more. Again and again, until he stopped after half a dozen times, panting.
‘That should teach you to not spout those damned lies anymore!’ he screamed at me.
‘But I saw it again,’ I mumbled in a low voice.
‘What was that you little shit?’
I curled up into a ball and said nothing.
Mom was still crying.
I woke up. Why were my dreams always about him? Goddamnit!
On my way to the bus, I thought about dad.
Dad hadn’t always been an asshole. When I was a little kid, he’d genuinely been the best. Then he started to drink. When I found out he was beating mom, I became a target as well.
For years the abuse went on until I learned to be smart enough to keep quiet. No, talking about it wasn’t helping anyone.
When I became a teenager, and after mom’s death, dad and I became close again. It was by necessity if anything. As a teenager, I couldn’t just move out.
Age hadn’t been kind to him, neither had the booze. On the old pictures, he was quite good looking, hell even handsome.
Now, pushing forty, he looked much older. His head was pale, his skin pudgy and grey and his stomach had developed into a bulging beer belly. Whatever he wore, it seemed to always tear at the fabric, trying to free itself.
“See her over there? Now that’s my type of woman, alright,” he said to me, pointing at someone ahead of me.
I stared at the young blond ahead of us. Small frame, a bit too timid and awkward. As I watched her, I saw the bruises on her arms, saw her shift slightly with her feet. I could even see the blue bruises on her hips. Exactly like mom, I thought. Always ending up in an abusive relationship, always another drunk bastard beating her.
“Well hello there young lady, need any help with those bags?” dad approached her and reached out a slimy hand.
The woman stared at him, and I saw her face contort by a mixture of surprise and disgust.
“No, I’m fine,” she mumbled in a low voice.
“Now come on, don’t be like that, babe, why don’t you just let me help you with those, hm?”
He asked, trying to take one of the bags from her. As he did, I saw him put his slimy hand on her back.
“It’s alright, I’m-”
“Now, now, modesty won’t do you any good,” he continued, and I saw his hand move downward.
“Dad!” I called out to him, putting my hand on his shoulder. “It’s late, let’s go home, I’m starving.”
In a moment, the lady tore her bag free from him and hurried down the road as far as she could.
“Damnit, what the hell are you doing, idiot!?”
Another slap in the face.
“Man, I was so close to getting some,” he cursed.
He was always this way. Not wasting any chance, trying to get his way with women. His behavior rude, lecherous and at times downright violent.
I didn’t cry when they buried him in an early grave a few years later.
Once I entered the bus, I had another half-hour ahead of me. I sent my newest date another message. I didn’t like emoticons, hell, I detested them, yet I made sure to sprinkle my messages with them. Somehow, people seemed to enjoy them.
That day I’d chosen a small bar. I’d told her it was a secret tip, but all I cared about was the distance.
The moment I arrived, I chose a seat by the window. I always arrived early, to keep watch and see if they actually came. Bus after bus arrived and finally a bouncy, beaming blond exited. She looked around for a moment before she typed something on her phone. Only a second later mine vibrated.
“I’m here, you already there?’
‘Yeah, window seat, back row!’
I saw her enter, saw her look around. The place was half empty. Her eyes noticed me. At first, she looked away, but then her eyes focused on me again.
‘I don’t see you.’
‘Yes, you do.’
I lifted my face and gave her an awkward smile before I looked away again.
It wasn’t long before I heard the click-clack sound of her heels as she approached me. When I looked up again, the smile on her face had vanished.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Damien,” I mumbled.
“What the hell? No, that can’t be! Your picture, I mean,” she toyed around with her phone, and after a short while, she held it to my face. “That’s not you, is it?”
I said nothing. Instead, I kept my head low. The few other guests were already staring at me.
“Hey! Say something! Is this a freaking joke?”
The rest of the evening played out like the last one. As I stumbled out of the bar, I looked at her picture once more and smiled. In my mind, I saw her sitting on the bus, fuming, hurrying home and falling asleep, still angry about the whole thing. I smiled again.
Work was slow the next day, allowing me to steal away every once in a while. For a few minutes at a time, I scanned profiles.
I noticed her instantly. Short brown hair, cheeky smile, tank top.
We hit things off well enough, but she was a tough one. She was cheeky alright, calling out my lines and bluffs one after another.
Still, the picture I used did the trick, and she finally agreed to meet up with me.
The rest of the shift passed quietly. A few of my coworkers noticed my happy expression, which prompted a few more insults. I couldn’t care less.
Once I arrived at the small restaurant I’d chosen, I decided on a window seat once again. The waiter came again and again, and by the third time, he started to get pushy. In a low voice, I ordered a drink.
I scanned the street, but there was still nothing. I opened my phone and sent her yet another quick message.
‘Hey, where are you?’
‘Sorry Romeo, went out with a few friends today.’
I stared at my phone with a deep frown. Shit, she wasn’t coming, was she? I cursed to myself.
‘Where are you going?’ I asked her.
‘Timbers! It’s great, why don’t you come by later?’
I opened Google Maps in a moment. Timbers, a bar in the freaking center of town.
“Are you ready to order yet,” the waiter asked in a strained voice, “sir?”
“Fuck,” I cursed once more. It was going to be one of ‘those’ nights.
“Sir, if you don’t plan on ordering anything, then-”
Without even looking at him, I got up and left. Once I stood in the open street, I opened the app once more, staring at her picture.
I was antsy when I entered the bus again. I couldn’t let it end like that. This was NOT how things were supposed to go!
It took the bus almost half an hour before it made it to the city center. The whole time I was nervous, shifting in my seat. Every once in a while, I stared at her picture, taking in as much as I could about her.
Before the bus had even rumbled to a stop, I was at the door, hitting the stop button.
Now where the hell is it?
I hurried down the street into the direction Google Maps told me, but there were too many damned clubs and bars around.
Then I saw it. The bright neon sign of the small bar named Timbers was only a hundred meters ahead of me.
I was in a minute later. The bouncer eyed me for a moment before he shrugged. My eyes wandered over the guests. Shit, it was way too damn late already. Would she even still be here? To make things worse, the place was packed! I shuffled through the guests and earned a few angry stares from people, but I went on.
Finally, my eyes grew wide. Short brown hair, cheeky smile, and a tank top like the one in the picture. When I saw the guy sitting next to her, his arm around her shoulder, I frowned.
I pushed my way back to the bar and ordered myself the cheapest cocktail they had. Then I made my way back towards them. I watched him as he whispered in her ear. I saw how he rubbed her upper arm and inched in closer. She giggled, yet when he tried to kiss her, she turned away and whispered something in his ear. She was cheeky. The guy however grinned, and when I saw that, rage exploded in my mind.
That smile, that damned smile. That’s when I knew.
I stumbled forward, shakily and nervous, yet I didn’t take my eyes off the guy. I’d almost reached them when I ran straight into a buff, tall guy.
“Hey, watch out where you’re going!” he yelled at me and pushed me aside.
I stumbled forward and crashed right into the guy sitting next to the short-haired girl.
My hand collided with his face, and I spilled my drink all over his cloth.
Both of them screamed up in surprise. In a moment she retreated to the bench’s end to not be drenched by the rest of the drink.
I pushed myself upwards and mumbled an excuse. Before I’d so much as finished it, the guy’s fist hit me square in the face. There was an explosion of pain, and I could taste blood in my mouth.
“The fuck are you doing you goddamn freak!”
Once more he hit me in the face, then a third time. When I went down, he didn’t leave off, kicking me again and again as he screamed obscenities at me.
“I’m going to fucking kill you, you piece of shit!”
I grinned up at him. He tried to kick me one more time, but right at that moment one of the bouncers tackled the guy.
Another guest was there, kneeling by my side.
“Hey, are you alright? You want me to call an ambulance?”
I shook my head, and then, with a tremendous effort, I tried to get up. Then heavy hands heaved me upwards, and I found myself face to face with the buff guy from before.
“Shit, man, sorry about that,” he said clearly embarrassed about shoving me.
“Didn’t know that guy was a freaking psycho!” he said and pointed at the guy taken away by security.
Soon after the barkeeper approached me, asking if he wanted me to call the police. I nodded.
It didn’t take them long to arrive, and with the help of the buff guy and the bouncers, we gave them a detailed description of the man.
“You need us to take you to a hospital, sir?” one of the officers offered.
I shook my head. “No,” I mumbled, “I’ll be fine.”
Once they were gone, I thanked the security and buff guy. He grinned at me.
“Tell you what, if you’d ruined my date, I might have kicked your ass too.”
I gave him a weak smile. “Yeah, guess she was.” I looked around for a moment.
“She’s gone, booked it the instant that guy went all out on you! Looked mighty scared.”
I nodded, thanked the guy once more, and left the bar behind.
On my way home, I took out my phone once more to look at her picture yet again. For the first time the whole evening, I was able to relax.
I could see her sitting in a taxi on her way home before she went to bed.
Gone were the images of her bloodied and beaten body. Gone was that guys grinning face as he stood above her.
The premonition had changed.
Even though it hurt like hell, I smiled.
She was saved.