The bathroom light crackled and popped a few times before settling into a dull flickering glow. Claire closed her eyes, the migraine pounding, and leaned her back against the cool metal of the door. The smell of stale urine and what she hoped was a dirty diaper threatened to bring up what little was in her stomach.
What have I done?
The reality of her situation hit her full force. She had nowhere to go, no one to call for help. Her few friends would urge her to turn herself in, an idea she rebelled against. For the first time in her life, she had done something exciting, something dangerous. And it had felt good. Until now. With the adrenaline rush long gone, she had nothing but fear to drive her.
Bile rose up in her throat, and she barely made it into one of the stalls before vomiting. As she leaned over the toilet spikes of pain shot through her head, triggering another upheaval. Turning and looking up through eyes blurred with tears, she saw someone at the sink. One last stomach spasm brought her attention back to the toilet. A wet paper towel was shoved into her hands, and she gratefully took it with a mumbled thanks. Afraid moving would start the process over, Claire sank to her knees, willfully ignoring the filthy bathroom floor. A prison cell won’t be much cleaner.
“Are you okay?”
The words were hard to understand, sounding as if the speaker had a mouth full of marbles. Claire wiped her face and eyes and took a good look at the other woman. What she saw made her forget her own troubles. Petite, with black hair cut into an extremely short pixie she looked to be no more than a child at first glance. The garbled speech was because she had a busted mouth, to go along with an eye swollen shut. In fact, the whole left side of her face was one bruised mess. Scratches and scrapes on her arms and legs, along with torn clothing completed the picture. Looking closer, Claire modified her first impression. This was a woman. A woman who had been beaten.
“What happened to you? Is that a boot print on your dress?” Claire stood up too quickly, dizziness making her sway. The woman reached out to steady her, and when her hand touched Claire’s arm, an electric shock coursed through them both. Instead of drawing back, the woman tightened her grasp, almost to the point of pain. A strange sensation began to seep through Claire, a warmth spreading from the point of contact and ending in her head. She could feel the headache fading, nausea already gone. Locking eyes with the stranger, Claire tried to ask her what was happening, but couldn’t form the words. Vaguely aware someone else had entered the bathroom, she struggled to keep from passing out.
“What the hell is going on in here? Emily, for fuck’s sake, are you doing what I think you’re doing?” A tall redhead, dressed in black leather biker gear pulled the woman’s hand from Claire’s arm. It was as if someone had doused her with ice water.
“The tanks full, I got snacks, and Sophie is as ready as she ever will be. Let’s go before she changes her mind. Again.” The newcomer frowned at Claire.” If you know what’s good for you, you’ll forget you ever saw us.”
“Tasha, knock it off. You’re scaring her.”
Claire looked from the newcomer to Emily. Confusion set in. Not only was Emily’s voice clearer, it looked as if the swelling in her lips had already gone away, and the bruises were no longer purple and fresh looking, but almost healed. Before she could say anything, Emily touched her arm again. The soothing warmth flooded her entire body this time, but she didn’t feel woozy.
“Everything will be okay. Trust me.” Emily smiled, and Claire somehow believed her.
“Oh no, we do not have time for your little fortune teller routine. Get in the car, Emily.” Tasha pushed Emily towards the door. “I’ll be there in a sec. I just need to talk to your new friend for a minute.”
“Tasha, she’s…..” Emily stopped talking as Tasha turned and glared at her.
“We. Don’t. Have. Time.”
Emily mouthed the words “trust me” as she walked backward out the door. Tasha turned back to Claire.
“Now, I said to forget you ever saw us and I mean it. You might see something in the papers, or on tv, that will make you want to tell someone about this little chance encounter you had tonight. Emily’s husband is very rich, and will probably put up a reward for info. Just remember this, whatever that scumbag offers won’t be enough to keep you safe from me if I find out you told him about us. You understand?”
Claire didn’t , but she nodded dumbly that she did. Too much was happening too fast.The room started to spin again. She was vaguely aware of Tasha catching her falling body and lowering her to the floor. “Well, this is fucking great” was the last thing she heard as blackness took her.