‘How awful, you’d never get over an attack like that would you? And she’s only 20.’
‘I know. They haven’t even got anyone for it yet.’
Jayne peered out of the train window and tried to ignore the conversation between the two women in front of her. She guessed they were talking about the brutal attack on a young woman that had happened last week. It had unnerved Jayne as she was the same age as the poor woman and the attack had happened not far from her own home.
As the train juddered into action, Jayne took out her Marian Keyes novel and started to read.
She found she was too tired to concentrate and her mind began to wander. She was trying to imagine herself sunbathing on some tropical beach but the women’s conversation interrupted her thoughts.
‘Well I wouldn’t go out by myself in the evening now.’
‘Neither would I. It’s far too dangerous.
Jayne sighed. She wished they wouldn’t keep talking about it. It reminded her how vulnerable she would feel walking home from the station alone, especially as it was nearly nine o’clock. She wasn’t usually this late home from work but she’d agreed to do some overtime.
Jayne decided to call in at the shop on the way home, there was better lighting that way and it had the bonus of a little treat for herself.
‘You’re in here late today,’ said the shopkeeper. Jayne liked coming in here, the family running the shop had been there for as long as she could remember.
‘I’ve been doing some overtime at the office today. I’m trying to save up for a holiday with my boyfriend. Somewhere warm and sunny,’ said Jayne as she plonked a bottle of red wine and some chocolate bars on the counter.
‘I’ve always fancied Florida, or somewhere like that. Nice and hot, and plenty to do.’
‘Anywhere warm where I can stretch out on a beach will do me. I’m fed up of these cold, dark evenings,’ said Jayne as she put her purse down while she stuffed the chocolate into her handbag.
‘I know what you mean. You need to be very careful too with this nutter about that hurt that poor young girl. You take care on your way home.’
Jayne stepped out of the shop and pulled her coat tighter as the wind hit her full on, stinging her cheeks and making her eyes water. She hurried down the road and wondered why on earth she wore heels for work; her feet felt sore and swollen.
It wasn’t far to go from the shop to Jayne’s flat but she felt nervous. She didn’t like being out this late when it was dark at the best of times, night shadows made her jumpy. With all this talk of the attack she was eager to be home.
As Jayne hurried on she looked up at the streetlights and saw moths flickering eerily, fluttering wildly at the light despite having to fight against the wind. She stumbled on some loose gravel, and cursed her heeled shoes as she felt a burning sensation and realised she’d twisted her ankle. She unsteadily got to her feet and walked as fast as her sore ankle would allow.
Jayne tried to quicken her pace but her ankle throbbed in pain. She glanced over her shoulder and was immediately filled with icy cold spasms of fear, and her heart thumped noisily against her ribcage. Someone was behind her and seemed to be hurrying in her direction.
It’s the attacker, thought Jayne. He’s after me and he’s going to hurt me, or murder me or do some other horrible thing to me. I’ll end up like that poor woman, left for dead after being brutally attacked. I don’t want to die. I’m not ready; I’ve still got so much to do with my life. I’m too young to die. I want to live, please let me live.
Jayne wanted to be sick, and her heart felt as if it would burst out of her chest at any moment. She began to run and as she did she heard the person behind begin to run too. I’ll never outrun them. Each heavy footfall got closer and closer, they were gaining on her. Jayne thought she heard the man shout to her. But her heart was pounding like bass drums in her ears, so she told herself it must have been her imagination. She ran faster but her ankle was still weak, Jayne’s leg buckled beneath her and she went crashing to the ground grazing her hands and knees. The wine bottle crashed to the floor with her and red wine gushed out like a pool of blood on the pavement.
The man was over her now breathing heavily, holding his weapon, poised ready to attack her.
Jayne tried to scream but no sound came out, instead the voice of the man cut through the darkness like a knife. His face wasn’t that of the monster Jayne had imagined, instead he looked shocked, almost fearful. ‘I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to give you this.’
Jayne felt giddy with a mixture of foolishness and relief as she took the man’s hand and pulled herself up rather unsteadily. It was hard to suppress a laugh as the man from the shop said, ‘you’ll never save up for that sunny holiday if you keep leaving your purse behind.’