Even though I've known Leila Whitestone for five years, she is still the most beautiful girl that I've seen in my entire life. Especially tonight, she has made extra effort with her flawless appearance.
Her long, majestic, auburn hair is styled into a high bun tied together by a French braid. Her porcelain skin is being illuminated under the flashing colorful lights of the nightclub. She's wearing a short, tight, black dress that highlights her tall and curvy figure. She's waving her arms in the air; her rosebud lips are parted as she squeals when the DJ plays the next song.
I can't say how long I've been sitting in the couch and staring at her. I've been watching her drink and dance wildly on the dance floor for the past half an hour or so. Now she's sitting down next to me, holding her glass of vodka in her manicured hand. It's almost as if there is a constant spotlight on Leila, drawing my attention to her. Her doey brown eyes land on me, catching me gawking.
"Whatchu staring at?" Leila asks, raising her shapely eyebrow.
"Oh... um... n-nothing much," I stammer, blushing furiously. Five years and I'm still a dork around her.
"Ohh! She called you nothing!" Our dumb friend, Tori says, nudging Leila. "Roasted."
I glare at Tori, "I didn't mean it like that."
Tonight, it is girls' night. My favorite time! It means that I get to spend another day with my best friend, Leila. We're in the sparkiest nightclub in another town for free. Well, it was a free offer for the females. However, upon arriving here, there was a slight issue when the bouncer refused to let Tori in, mistaking her for a boy. I couldn't blame him entirely, as Tori recently cut her hair so short and spiked it up with gel. She also refused to wear a dress and instead settled for her combat jeans, black hoodie and snapback.
Leila shakes her head. "You should've worn that purple dress I picked out for you! It was so cute and it complements your eyes!"
Tori rolls her green eyes. "I already told you, dresses and me don't get along. It feels so uncomfortable and itchy just wearing one. And don't get me started on high heels!" She eyes Leila's five-inch stiletto heels. "You're just asking for blisters and broken bones."
"If only you wore a dress, it would've saved you from embarrassing yourself back there with that guard. You literally made a scene out there," Leila says, heaving a sigh.
I cringe recalling the event that transpired a while ago. Tori yelled at the bouncer, poking his burly chest, and she screamed about gender stereotypes, misogyny and discrimination until he relented and let her in. Everyone was staring at her, at us, yet Tori didn't seem to care. I guess I admired that careless and fiery spirit about her, but at times she can throw us into public scrutiny and humiliation.
Tori huffs and crosses her arms. "I won't ever wear dresses or makeup. I'd rather puke in a cup and drink that up again."
"Oh, you're being silly. What about for prom? Surely, you'll glam up then?" Leila persists.
"Nah. I'll rock the casual look with my jeans and top."
"But... it's like the most special time! You'll be the only girl wearing jeans. C'mon, that'll be embarrassing! Besides, if you come in all dolled up, everyone will be blown away. Can you imagine - the tomboy with a killer figure? The boys will go crazy. Everyone's attention will be on you!"
"Their attention will be on me regardless with my casual outfit, so I'm sorted," Tori says.
"At least let me do your makeup - at the very least," Leila continues, seeming determined.
"Coming from the girl who cakes her face too much," Tori states tactlessly, "I'd rather not."
Leila's hands instantly fly to her face self-consciously. "I don't wear too much, do I?"
"Not really," I say, hoping to reassure her. "I mean, it's a special night today, so you're wearing more than you usually do. But still, with or without makeup, you are..." my voice trails away and I find myself whispering, "beautiful."
"You look like a clown," Tori adds unnecessarily, making me glare at her furiously.
"No, she doesn't! Stop it!"
"You guys realize that lipstick contains fish scales, right?" Tori remarks, ignoring my fury. "There's a lot of messed up things in your cosmetic products, including crushed bugs and fat from slaughtered animals. Is it really worth it?"
I sigh in frustration. I don't really know how to answer that.
Looking over at Leila, I see that she's staring at her phone screen with an absent-minded expression across her impeccable features.
Tori snaps her fingers across her face. "Earth to Leila! Are you still there or have the aliens got you?"
Leila snaps out of her daze. She lets out a sad sigh. "He still hasn't messaged me back yet. I seriously wonder what he's doing. Shall I send him another message or will that seem desperate?"
Evan Winter. Her boyfriend. They've been together for almost six months now. I really don't like him. Every time he's around, my senses are alert like a screeching siren. There's just something off about the guy. I mean, he's basically got the most beautiful, smart, talented and caring girl ever, yet he takes her love for granted. That's the impression that I get from him - particularly when he neglects her and chooses his friends, especially that idiot Kyo, over her.
"Girl, send him a sexy selfie! He'll drop everything to text you back," Tori suggests in her usual obnoxious manner.
"No! Don't do that!" I say, a little too loudly, as I slam the glass table across from us with my clenched fist. The table shakes and spills over the glasses of vodka slightly, while Leila and Tori both gawk at me in surprise. I feel my face burning in embarrassment as I shrink in my seat.
"I- I mean... y-you shouldn't worry, just distract yourself. He'll reply eventually. That's why... you're... we're here in the first place - to... to forget him and have fun," I explain, trying to regain my composure.
Leila beams, her brown eyes twinkling as her breathtaking smile reaches her eyes. My heart skips a beat.
"You're so right, Tash. I'm lucky that you're here. Lord knows what I'll do if I'm left with this idiot," she says, shooting an accusing look at Tori.
Tori glowers defensively. "How can you call me an idiot when you didn't even test my idea? I know for a fact it will work. Jeez."
"Whatever. Shall we head home now, ladies?" Leila asks, eyeing the time on her phone screen. It's already past midnight. Time always flies by when I'm with her and I'm constantly left wishing for the day to never end.
Still, I'm stretching my arms and yawning right now. Whilst I don't enjoy loud nightclubs, I'll do anything to be with her- even watching boring documentaries about recycling. To this day, I don't remember anything about that documentary, but I do vividly remember feeling Leila's warm body as we cuddled in my sofa. I remember the strawberry scent emanating from her lovely auburn hair and the way she fell asleep softly in my arms. Thinking about it now warms my heart and makes it flutter like crazy.
"Let's go. I feel weird staying here for much longer. Like, I'm sure there were eyes on us the whole time," Tori says, scanning the nightclub in paranoia.
Leila laughs and rises to her feet. "Well, you did attract attention beforehand with that guard, so what do you expect?"
Tori frowns, still looking bothered for some reason. I don't understand why, since she's the last person to care about receiving odd looks from strangers. Perhaps she's just tired.
I was thankful to escape the nightclub and its blaring music and flashing lights, which was the root cause of my pounding headache. The starless sky is dark with tints of blue and purple blended together, accentuating the glowing moon. Streetlights and colorful store lights are switched on, a calm contrast to the club's neon lights, illuminating the night.
I sneak another glance at the beautiful Leila. Her cheeks are flushing red from partying and drinking, and her hair is a tad messy with the French braid coming loose. She's in her giggly mood, which is like a peaceful melody to my ears. As we walk together, the soft, cool breeze flutters against my skin, and the smell of fish and chips lingers in the air. In this moment, everything feels magical.
"I know a shortcut," Tori says, making us turn into a corner. Just like that, the atmosphere changed like a record being paused. There are no cars or any other people in sight. Everything is quieter and the long, narrow street seems darker and ominous.
"This place is just..." I begin, shuddering and rubbing my bare arms. It feels like it's gone colder too.
Leila is giggling away, oblivious to the surroundings.
She throws her arms in the air and twirls around. She attempts to tap dance along, but stumbles forward in her high-heels. Without hesitation, I quickly catch her.
"Oops!" Leila is still giggling away, as she stands up straight. "Come on, dance," she purrs, grabbing my hands. I'm thankful that it's dark so she doesn't see me blushing furiously. She spins me around, making my dress fly around me like a puffy cloud. I find myself giggling too.
"Pfft! You call that dancing? Let the master show you!" Tori scoffs, as she moves her feet quickly and intricately. "This is the c-walk," she explains, as she appears to be gliding across the pavement. For a moment, I am amazed by her footwork. Then she gets confused, tangling her legs together awkwardly before face-planting on to the ground. This makes Leila and I laugh harder.
Just then, tall shadows tower above us. It is Leila who stops laughing first, her expression falling flat as her eyes land behind us. Turning around, I feel my heart sink.
A gang of thuggish-looking guys. They look older than us, the youngest appearing to be eighteen or so. They're dressed like Tori with their jackets, baggy jeans, chains, while wearing unpleasant expressions across their faces. The shortest guy is holding a bat loosely over his shoulder. Another guy is so burly that I won't be surprised if he's on steroids.
"Seems like you're having fun," the youngest-looking one says. He's got red eyes. I assume they're colored contacts - still, he looks like a demon.
"Yeah, so what?" Tori replies.
"We can show you what's really fun," another guy says. I suspect it's the one wearing a skull mask covering the lower half of his face.
"Yeah, give you girls a good time," chips in the oldest-looking one. He has to be at least fifty.
"Nah, we'll pass," Tori says, making the oldest guy smile in a leery way. I shudder in disgust at his vile expression.
"We can't let you do that. We'll give you a night you won't forget," Red Eyes says with a sneer. He steps forward, followed by his gang.
I feel sick. Is this actually happening? We are outnumbered and we don't have weapons. Then I realize something awful. These guys are all staring at Leila, eyeing her like she's a piece of candy up for the taking. The gross, old man is practically licking his lips.
"Don't step any closer," Leila speaks up. She holds her phone up threateningly like it's a weapon. "Or I'll call the police."
This comment makes them chortle amongst themselves. Clearly, they are not taking us seriously. I see that Tori is balling up her fists. I'm desperately making eye-contact with the girls, trying to scream at them with my look, "Shall we leg it?"
Thankfully, they're on the same page as me. We start to run, but before we can make any progress with our escape, a figure lunges at Leila. It's Skull Mask who knocks her phone out of her hand, and he pins her body down. Immediately I shriek and pounce on him, trying to push him off her, but arms wrap around me and lift me up.
I scream and scratch, trying to squirm away, but his grip on me tightens, suffocating me. The stench of weed overwhelms my senses, and I realize that it's the old man who's holding me. He sneers at my helpless struggle. God, I feel sick.
Tori is fighting off two guys. Oh god, she's up against Musclehead! With a swift kick to his groin, his burly exterior collapses to the ground. This enables Tori to follow-up with another fierce kick to his face. Bones snapping echo in the night and his jaw is probably dislocated. I almost forgot that Tori excels at kickboxing, giving us an advantage.
A ripping noise now. It's the sound of my dress being torn apart by this old man. No matter how much I kick and fight back, he's too strong for me. Leila is screaming, as Skull Mask chucks her thong over his shoulder.
"No!" I cry, biting the old man's hand furiously, as he lets me go snappish. Running over, I charge at Skull Mask again, throwing my half-naked body on him and forcing him off Leila.
Skull Mask punches my nose, his fist flying so quickly that I didn't even see it coming. Then my face is pressed against the ground and, despite my intense struggle to break free, his shoe is holding my head down firmly.
Leila is also being pinned down by Red Eyes, who kicks her spine brutally, making her cry in pain. Whilst I'm also in physical pain, my heart is hurting deeper knowing that Leila is hurt and I can't do much about it. Fortunately, Tori sweeps in, throwing punches at Red Eyes. I notice fast blurry movement approaching her - it's the short guy with the bat.
"Watch it, Tori! Behind y-!" I yell, but it gets cut off by Skull Mask, who bangs my head against the ground. I can taste blood and see stars. Through my teary vision, I can see that Tori has arched her back all the way down, impressively dodging the swing of the bat. Then she punches the tip of the bat, causing it to hit the short guy's crotch. Another sharp cry. Short Guy falls to the floor, groaning in agony.
"You're such a pretty little highschooler," Old Man says, stroking Leila's cheek. She winces at his horrible touch, making me want to murder him in the worst way. Wrapping his dirty hands around her delicate neck, he begins to choke her. Thick, crimson blood dribbles down her chin, while her pained eyes almost pop out of their sockets.
I scream, trying to pull away in the hopes of saving Leila. However, Skull Mask yanks my hair wrapped around his clenched fist, and he whacks my head repeatedly against the cold, concrete floor.
This is too much for me. I think I'm going to pass out. But I can't. I can't. Not now. Not when Leila needs me. I refuse to pass out.
Luckily, Tori flew in there and delivered another deadly kick to the old man. His body almost flew back from the vicious contact. She continues kicking every bit of him, showing no mercy. More bones are snapping away. There's no doubt that her legs are more powerful than her fists. Thanks to her kickboxing skills, two guys are knocked out cold now.
This gives Leila a chance to run, but as she does so, Short Guy blocks her path. He strikes her legs with the bat, instantly bringing her down. Bringing the bat against her neck, he presses it down harshly, as she tries to writhe away. I'm worried that he's blocking her airway.
Just when I think things can't get any worse, Red Eyes shouts, "Enough!"
He's holding a gun directly at Tori. She spits at the unconscious old man, who's lying in his pool of blood, and she stands up slowly looking at Red Eyes. Her breathing is heavy and shallow, and she almost seems animal-like with her pugnacious demeanor.
"Drop to your knees, slut," Red Eyes demands. Tori stares back at him silently, challenging him, as she refuses to move.
"Are you deaf or something? Get on your knees!"
"Listen to him!" Leila chokes out the words, despite her struggle against the bat. My heart punches rapidly against my chest.
I know how stubborn Tori is and I know that it will destroy her pride to perform this act of submission. I also know that her stubbornness will get her killed.
"Do it!" Red Eyes says, cocking the gun and preparing to fire any second now.
"Please Tori! Listen!" Leila cries out.
"Don't be stupid!" I manage to say, even though my mouth is full of blood and my voice is hurting from screaming too much.
Tori looks at Leila, then me, before she slumps down to the ground in surrender. I breathe out a sigh of relief. It hurts my chest to even breathe now, like a searing pain shooting through my ribcage.
"You're a feisty little fighter," Red Eyes says, walking closer to Tori and still aiming the gun at her. "But you messed with the wrong guys. Now pull down your pants, you slut."
Tori grits her teeth. My heart aches for my friends. I feel so utterly useless, as if I'm just a spectator and nothing more. I wish I had the strength in me. I'm the smallest in the group, the skinniest and most timid. One look at me and it's obvious that I'm the weakest link.
I feel like I'm letting my friends down.
Tori is sprawled out across the dirty, cold ground now, and her pants are chucked ruthlessly to the side. Red Eyes positions himself behind her, unzipping his own pants. The tip of his gun is resting at the back of her head. I can feel Skull Mask's weight crushing me down, keeping me glued to the ground. In this moment, I feel absolutely frozen in fear.
Closing my eyes, I'm faced with a horrible truth. I will never forget this night for the rest of my life. It will haunt me, knowing that I couldn't protect my friends - that I just let them get hurt because I'm so pathetic. Tears are spilling down my cheeks frantically, and I feel a fire ignite within me.
No. It's not over yet. I can't just admit defeat.
With all my strength, I manage to pull out one arm, and I immediately slash Skull Mask's face. He's screaming now. I can't see exactly what I'm gripping onto, but it appears to be working. I dig my sharp nails deeper into him.
He lets me go, and I grab the opportunity to run over to Leila and Short Guy. At this point, she's completely naked and thrashing around desperately underneath him. He's biting her neck and sticking his nasty fingers into places he shouldn't.
I kick the back of his head, knocking him off her, before I grab the bat.
"Tori! Catch!" I yell, throwing the bat in her direction. On cue, she holds out her hand and catches the bat expertly.
A loud gunshot.
"Tori!" I scream, knowing that I'm on the verge of losing my mind. Skull Mask is charging my way now. His eyes are bleeding, as if he is crying blood. I realize now that I must've attacked his eyeballs.
Leila jumps at him, and she's scratching, biting and kicking Skull Mask everywhere.
I notice the gun has been knocked out of Red Eyes' hand, and it's now lying on the concrete floor, glistening under the moonlight. I'm running for it, but Short Guy also runs for it too. He grabs my legs and pulls me down, along with him. Now we're tangled on the floor, wrestling each other for the deadly weapon.
I can hear Tori's battle scream distinctly against the other screams. She's still alive, thank god. Her determination to fight back against this cruelty motivates me further. I can't give up. Losing is not an option.
So I punch at Short Guy's eyes, over and over. This appears to slow him down. Wasting no time, I escape his grip and run for the gun. Picking it up with a quick scoop, I turn my attention onto everyone else.
"Stop what you're doing!" I shout, moving the gun from Skull Mask who's fighting off Leila, to Short Guy who's staring at me, and to Red Eyes who's still dealing with Tori. I'm shaking, yet I pray that they don't know I'm scared. This is the first time I'm holding a gun and it's surprisingly heavier than I imagined.
Short Guy tries to move closer, but I shout again. "I said stop! I'm not afraid to shoot!"
I don't want to shoot. I don't know how. But I hope my words are enough to scare them.
Red Eyes is the only one who's continuously screaming, and I'm surprised his lungs hasn't burst out by now. He's stumbling back, while having Tori attached onto him. I can't tell what she's doing to him, as the night sky is completely black now. The other guys are watching me, their eyes wide in anticipation.
The longer I hold on to the gun with my shaky hands, the heavier it feels by the second. I don't want to do this anymore. I want this nightmare to end.
All too soon, the most violent scream fills the tensed atmosphere. Everyone turns to look at Red Eyes. Tori has spit something out of her mouth, before letting him go and standing up straight. He's cursing and crying, both hands holding his left side of the head.
"You bitch! You crazy fucking bitch! My ear! My fucking ear! You mental BITCH!"
My eyes widen seeing thick, black liquid oozing through his fingertips and dripping down onto the ground.
Skull Mask and Short Guy also seem horrified. Two of their guys are knocked out. One is bleeding from his eyeballs. Another has lost an ear. And we've got their weapons. This has gotten too far. Further then they could've ever imagined.
They messed with the wrong girls.
Thankfully, Skull Mask and Short Guy drag their earless friend away with them, leaving a trail of blood in their wake. Short Guy scooped up the broken ear and put it in his pocket. My mind is buzzing and the entire situation feels so surreal, like it's all a bad dream. The two unconscious bodies are left behind. They almost look dead. God, I hope not.
The girls and I stare at each other - angry, baffled, hurt and upset. All these negative emotions crackled in the air, like a black, unfriendly energy amongst us. My fingernails are dripping with Skull Mask's blood. Tori bows her head down, seeming ashamed at what happened. I also feel immense guilt washing over me, combined with intense disgust for my violent actions.
What have we done?
We are no better than the guys.
No. I can't think this way. I have to shake this feeling of self-loathe away. I had to fight back for my loved ones. I had no choice. I can't let this guilt eat me alive.
"We have to report them..." Leila says weakly, picking her phone up from the ground. It's smashed to pieces. Her bottom lip wobbles and she cries hopelessly. This only breaks my heart more.
I pull Leila into a tight hug. Her hair is completely loose and messy, but I stroke it down tenderly with my fingertips. Kissing her forehead, I whisper 'I'm sorry' over and over. I should've known better. I had a bad feeling about this place, yet I didn't voice my concern. If only I spoke up...
Tori whips out her own phone and takes pictures of the unconscious guys. "Yeah, we can send these pics to the police. I'll give them a quick call to get here, but it's not safe for us to stay here any longer. Don't forget those weapons - the police will be able to trace their fingerprints. Let's go."
Lin: Haha, I'm glad you like Kyo! I actually based his character on someone that I know. So it was fun writing about him. Thanks for your lovely comment!
K: Aww, I feel bad for Bertha too, but she did deceive Kyo. That probably wasn't the best move. Thank you for reading!