"Come on darling, that's it, go inside," Naomi pants out at Loopy as she gets home from her after work run.
The sweat is dripping from her blonde hair thanks to the unseasonal hot weather. An uneasy feeling tugs at the fringes of her mind as she steps into the house after her wayward pet. Locking the door - something she does automatically - she wanders through the house, hands out-stretched and grabs a fresh towel from the linen closet on her way to the bathroom. Stripping off as she goes. The extractor fan comes on as she switches on the bathroom light and she steps into the shower. Shivering with a need to get the sweat off of her body, she punches the button for the shower a little too hard; the hard plastic creaking in protest at the heavy handed pressure.
Standing under the spray she rinses herself off. A quick squirt of her favourite shampoo into her hand, she lathers it into her scalp and she moans lightly as the tea-tree ingredient makes her head tingle. Working the shampoo from root to tip methodically, her mind wanders to her new friend, after a few moments she finds herself smiling warmly and isn't quite sure why. Biting the inside of her cheek she leans her head back under the spray to wash the shampoo out.
I wonder if he answered, the thought jumps into her mind, over and over again, she is unable to shift it and soon she cannot think of anything else. Finishing her shower in a daze, she eventually steps out, still curious as to whether he has replied. Grabbing her hairdryer from the bedroom, Naomi plugs it in near the laptop as the latter boots up. She brushes through her hair as the dryer does its job and she styles it as she goes, teasing it out into a voluminous frame for her face. She reaches over and opens her email, no new messages from him. Naomi realises that she is genuinely disappointed by this, she chews her lower-lip, maybe he's still busy, dammit, I should have asked what he does for a living. Did I already? What the fuck is wrong with me?
Sucking in a breath, she steadies herself and finishes her hair, then into the bedroom for a quick rummage in her closet to locate her black, figure hugging dress. It has been a while since her last night out so even though it is just the bar, Naomi decides to make more of an effort than usual. She slips the dress over her head and settles it into position, her curvy form filling it out perfectly. The graceful movements contrasted by grunting and swearing as she struggles to pull on a pair of clear tights. After way longer than it should have taken she buckles on a pair of black high-heels and clacks her way to the mirror.
Leaning forward, she lightly dusts her cheeks with makeup and then adds a subtle shade of lip gloss, some concealer for the bags she imagines are under her eyes and with a little spray of perfume - she is ready.
Smiling in the mirror, she wonders who that confident beautiful woman is staring back at her, all too aware of her Connor-induced neurosis, she watches herself as her eyes fill with moisture. Dismissing the idea of cancelling the night out she stands up straight, stares into her own eyes and resolves to enjoy herself.
A knock at the front door announces the time to leave and Naomi walks out saying goodbye to Loopy and drinking in the awestruck look on Nicola's face as they head for the taxi-cab awaiting them. Sliding into the back while keeping her knees together, Naomi suppresses the shiver of warning that ripples through her. The taxi pulls away from the sidewalk as soon as Nicola is seated, followed at a discreet distance by the black sedan.
A few hours and multiple drinks later, Naomi finally begins to relax. Ignoring the unease that seems to be her constant companion now-a-days, she knocks back drink after drink as she makes a show of chatting lightly to Nicola.
"Wow, the two most beautiful wom…"
Naomi turns to the man, her smile dropping to a sneer and she stares at him for a few moments. "…keep walkin' asshole, there's nothing here for you."
He walks away with a fake smile plastered across his face as Naomi and Nicola both laugh and giggle. Looking around the bar area casually, Naomi's heart leaps into her throat as she spots a pair of familiar eyes glaring at her from the gloomy corner of a booth. Her eyes lock onto his and she feels his anger and jealousy burning a mark on her soul as she gulps. Terrified, she forces herself to slide off of the stool and staggers towards the bathroom, Nicola giggling at her apparent unsteadiness. Naomi's legs are like jelly as she finally reaches the bathroom. Using her arms to steady herself over the sink she retches, her chest heaving, breathing quickening to the point of hyperventilating as a panic attack hits her full force.
Her breath stops on the inhale, it feels like it has hit a wall, nothing going in, nothing coming out, oh god, oh god, please no. Her throat constricts as she stares in horror at her face, the blood visibly draining as shock sets I and her knees give way. Black-emptiness covers her like a blanket.
"Oh fuck, Naomi, Naomi. Help! Naomi honey, it's Nicola. Help, in here, help!" Naomi hears as the darkness begins to recede.
"Please, be ok, please, don't be hurt," Nicola sobs as she clutches Naomi's head.
Naomi mumbles in reply.
"What was that?" she leans in to listen.
"I said loosen your grip, you're fuckin' suffocating me."
Nicola laughs hysterically, forcedly.
Sitting up, Naomi reaches to the back of her head and flinches as her fingers bang into a sensitive lump. Pulling her hand round sluggishly, she stares at it for a few moments, relieved that there doesn't seem to be any blood. Unsteadily, she rises to her feet, ignoring the protests from Nicola and feeling utterly embarrassed, she pushes her was out of the bathroom as Nicola rushes to catch up. Slinging her jacket round her shoulders Naomi barely stops for breath as she flags down a taxi and Nicola has to jump in to avoid being left behind as her friend brusquely gives the driver her address.
Refusing any arguments, Naomi ensures the driver drops Nicola home first and then she sits in silence for the journey home. Jumping out, she hands the driver two twenty dollar bills and tells him to keep the change. She all but runs into the house and is relieved when Loopy trots through to welcome her home. Looking around the sitting room, Naomi also notices her laptop is still on her email, she refreshes the page and she smiles.
Opening the email from Craig Wallace she reads over it, he mentions he is training to be a Royal Marine, he explains more about his brother and thanks her continually for helping him grieve, she chokes back a tear as he seems so grateful to her for bringing up such horrible memories. Her mind reels as she reads the last part of his reply:
Can I ask, what pain is behind this story?
The question destroying her walls as she completely breaks down and sobs loudly as Loopy nuzzles in, knowing something is wrong and trying to offer comfort in the only way a dog can. Naomi rubs her face into Loopy's coat as the dog whines lightly in concern. She sucks in a breath and a mouthful of damp dog hair and then through her tear-misted eyes, she watches as her fingers begin to build an answer of their own accord and all to a stranger four or five thousand miles away.
Thank you for the reply and please, stop thanking me for bringing back such horrible memories. You ask me about the pain behind the story, here, goes… I used to be engaged to a guy called Connor, we broke up and he cannot handle it. He started following me, I thought it was harmless but then he started to approach me and threaten me. A few weeks ago in the park, he grabbed me and pulled me into a bush…