The streets of Poughkeepsie were empty. I had not anticipated this, but I didn't really mind one way or another. After all, nobody would recognize me so far from home. I had my life's savings in my dress pocket and my chosen keepsakes crammed into the largest purse that I could find. It was also darker than I had expected, and that did bother me a little; I was only fifteen, and being on the streets at night was not something that I enjoyed. I should have foreseen this, I suppose. After all, running away from home normally involved sleeping in ominous places.
At around a quarter past nine, I found the perfect spot to retire for the night. It was a tiny alleyway between a delicatessen and a tailor's shop, hidden by a wrought iron fence. It was illuminated somewhat by a flickering streetlight, but dark enough to keep me out of sight. I tossed my purse over and glanced around to make sure that nobody was watching. Other than a few iridescent store lights, the street was deserted.
I pulled the skirt of my cobalt dress into a bundle at my thigh and threw my leg over the top bar. Mustering up all of my strength, I managed to heave myself over the fence and collapse into a heap on the other side. I moved all of my belongings to the back, stowing them away between two abandoned storage crates, and then hurried back to the fence. Blushing, I realized that I could easily fit through the cracks between the rails. I shook my head at my own idiocy and hurried onto the sidewalk. After all, I did need food for the night.
This was my mistake; I had not checked to see if anybody was in sight. As I abruptly turned to the left to make my way towards the dumpster by the delicatessen, I collided with a figure at least two feet larger than me both vertically and horizontally. I stumbled backwards in shock, inhaling sharply as I took in the size of the man.
"I'm sorry, Sir," I managed to choke out, hurrying past him in a frenzy. My heart was racing as I ran away towards the deli. Surely he had seen my hide-out, but would he care enough to inform the authorities? In this day and age, it was uncommon for women to be out alone this late.
"Miss," the voice called after me. I stopped short, acting on my instincts.
"Yes?" I replied from a distance, too jumpy to get any closer. To my intense embarrassment, the man held up a silver comb. My hand flew up to my soft black curls, which I realized had come undone. I approached the man warily, with my hand outstretched. He did not move from his spot.
"Thank you," I squeaked shakily, holding out my hand. The man dropped it into my palm. For some strange reason, I almost expected him to grab me by the throat. But he didn't. He stayed perfectly still as I hurried away again. I could feel his coal-black eyes on me the entire time.
I was not that lucky at the delicatessen. I grudgingly ate a rock-hard pastry, pinching my nose to dull the taste. The jelly made me queasy as it squished around in my stomach. The apple and sandwich that I had packed had only sustained me for the trolley ride north.
I was extra cautious as I made my way down the street this time. I managed to arrive safely back to my hide-out, but I was suddenly quite anxious. Despite my nerves, I couldn't find it in me to regret running away. Surely the bitter cold and nervous anxiety that I experienced here were better than the harsh insults that I had received from my mother and the piercing slaps that I had received from my father. I was comparing the two different sufferings when I heard a noise from a couple of feet away; somebody was shaking the iron fence.
My heart froze in place. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be. But it was. I could hear the man grunting as he rattled the bar. With a burst of adrenaline, I let out a high-pitched scream as I saw my attacker. It was the same man that had collided with me in the street. The same man that had returned my hair comb to me…
His eyes were frozen into mine, and his face was twisted into a contorted, ugly grin.
"They'll hear me scream," I threatened, as he took a step towards me. My poor parents- they would be destroyed. Or maybe they would feel relieved that I was out of their lives. Yes, my sisters at least would gloat in all of the attention that they would receive at the funeral services.
"Nobody is around to hear anything of the sort," the man laughed icily, like daggers flying through the air. I gulped like they always do in the theater, right before they meet their untimely death.
"Please don't do this," I pleaded. Threats did not work, but maybe begging would? Judging by the malicious expression on the man's face, I decided that they were both long shots.
The man was inches from me now, and I was cornered. I closed my eyes and winced as the man pressed a machete against my throat, but only with enough force to reveal one glistening drop of blood. I could feel the cold steel pressing in harder, but all that I could do was gasp for air. My heartbeat seemed to echo around the barren alleyway, but my breathing was barely audible.
And then the knife was gone. My eyes flew open in horror. On the hard concrete ground next to me was my attacker, writhing in pain. But he was not the one that had caught my attention. All that I could focus on was my savior. He was the most beautiful person that I had ever seen. But also the most horrifying. His skin was pale white and his bronze-colored hair glistened in the faint streetlight. He had some muscle, but he certainly did not look strong enough to fight off my burly attacker. And he had come out of no where…
My hand flew to my mouth as my savior leaned down over the attacker's twitching body. For a second I thought that he was going to kiss him, but then he pressed his mouth to the other man's throat savagely. My attacker let out a horrified scream that echoed around the empty town. I couldn't help myself but to let out a short, high shriek. And then the blood came. It came first in puddles, then in pools. All of a sudden, the man was lying dead in his own blood. This sickened me almost as much as the fact that my savior was drinking it.
"Oh my god…" I exhaled slowly, astonished by the tremors in my voice. "Oh my god, stop it! STOP IT!" My voice rebounded off of every surface as my shout hung there in the silent night, but the beautiful boy did not hesitate.
"Help!" I shrieked instinctively, not sure who I even wanted to be saved from. There was something benign about my savior, as if he would not harm the innocent. Still, I watched in horror as he stood up to face me. He was clearly debating something, but then he shook his head, disgusted with myself. I was trying to control my compulsive trembling.
"You should go back to your parents," my savior muttered in a velvet voice that sent shivers up my spine. Before I could udder a thank you, he was gone as fast as he had come. I was left all alone with a drained corpse, a hammering heart and very disorientated memories.