I know that silence speaks, to walk away would be so sweet.
Lauren spent the next hour in the staff room, or by the bar, trying to make conversation with the kitchen staff who'd drawn their turn to clean up afterwards. It didn't last long, though, and Lauren eventually had to make her way home.
She got halfway down the street, when she noticed the flashing lights and sirens. Walking closer to the intersection, she could see smoke, and broken glass littering the ground. A car crash by the looks of it. Nothing too serious, but enough to block that was going home. There was one other way she knew, around the other way. It was a good deal longer than the way she knew, but she figured that there was no other choice. She sighed, and turned back to head home the other way.
Turning a block, she found herself on the same street as a brightly-lit dance club. It might have been the one the others had gone to. She considered going inside to look for them, but she quickly changed her mind. The last thing she needed was to be around Joe. She shrugged and walked on, away from the light and back into the dimly-lit street, not noticing the footsteps behind her.
Inside the club, however, Julia, Jaime, and the boys were enjoying the outing. It felt like that first night hanging out, only more free, like they were actually hanging out as friends. At one point in the night, Julia and Jaime went off to the bathroom to freshen up.
"Jaime?" Julia said, in front of the mirror. "What's the matter? Is it Lauren? Because Joe said that she was tired, and went back…"
"No, it's not Lauren. I know how she can be," Jaime, washing her hands, said. "It's just… I'm nervous."
Julia grinned slyly. "About Joey?"
Jaime was confused. "Joey? Why would I be nervous about him?"
Her friend looked ahead, and quickly said. "No reason. He hasn't been flirting with you all night or anything."
"Oh, like you've been flirting with Darren?"
Julia blushed, but held herself steady. "That's different – he sang a song in front of me. It didn't mean anything."
"But if it's not Joey," Julia pressed, ignoring the other subject, "What's wrong?"
Jaime took a deep breath. "I had an audition today."
"What else do you expect me to do all day?" Jaime said, laughing a bit. "I go out on auditions."
"Wow," Julia replied. "How'd you do?"
She shrugged. "Okay, I guess. I don't know. I'll find out by the end of the week."
Julia grinned, and reassured her friend that she's sure she did just fine. As they re-entered the club, Joey and Moses approached them. "Hey, have you seen Joe?" Joey said.
"Um, we were just in the girl's room," Jaime reminded him.
He blushed ever so slightly, but didn't dwell on it. "He was looking out the window, and then he got this really weird look on his face, then he took off. I think he might have left, but he probably just went around and I lost sight of him."
"He's probably with Darren," Julia said. "Where is he?"
"Oh," JoMo said, "No, Darren's over there, dancing with, um, her."
Her was some bleach-blonde girl Julia had never seen before, but she seemed to be draping herself on Darren like an old ragdoll, and the sight made Julia sick. Then it made her bold.
"Out of my way," she said, and she held her head up and shoved past the boys, into the fray. She was not going to have weeks of watching Darren from afar spoiled in one night by some girl at a club.
Lauren, on her walk home, was reaching the turn to her street. It was just past an alleyway, then a right, then a few more yards until she was in the comfort of her own building. It had been such a hectic week for her. She'd been run down at work, as always. Then there was the emotional strain, because of Joe Walker. She didn't know what to think about him. She still wasn't sure, even after his raging douchbaggery from earlier. For someone who seemed to mean well, he had a ridiculous way of expressing it.
Her thoughts were cut off, however, when she finally noticed that she was being followed. She didn't know who, but whoever it was had been walking behind her some time now. He was closer than some stranger off the streets should be. Much too close. And Lauren realized it much too late. Picking up speed, she tried to run past the alleyway to get into the light of the next streetlamp. But, just as she'd begun to pick up her pace, she felt a hard hand collide with her arm, throwing her sideways, into the darkness.
She hit the ground hard, and managed to let out a brief cry for help before she was struck again in the stomach. She looked up to see her attacker. He was big, and broad, and had something over his face. Whether it was a beard or a mask, the dim lighting wouldn't reveal. But he looked mean. And tough. And strong. Instinct took over for a second, and a rush of adrenaline propelled Lauren forward. But he caught her by the arm and clamped a dirty hand over her mouth, and began to drag her further into the alley. She struggled and thrashed and tried to fight back, but the man held her firmly. She was so small, and he was so big.
Lauren was choking in his grip, when suddenly, sharply, she was thrown to the ground again. She raised her hand to block another expected blow, but was surprised when it didn't come. Instead, she could just make out the image of the man himself being thrown to the ground, by someone even taller than him. And she realized that she hadn't been thrown to the ground, she had been dropped. Someone had come to her aid.
While her assailant struggled with his new enemy, she rolled into a ball and turned away. She couldn't find it in her legs to stand up and run away. She just waited. At last, however, the alley got quiet. The man had run off, it seemed. There only remained her, and whoever had come to her rescue.
"Lauren," he said softly, kneeling by her, rolling her onto her back. She flinched when he touched her, but as soon as she saw who it was she collapsed in his arms.
"Joe," she breathed. She took a deep breath to remain calm. But it didn't work. And she found herself, battered and bruised in a dark alley, sobbing into Joe Walker's shirt. "I… Was so… scared…" she couldn't even get the sentence out, when hysteria rocked her again. He held onto her, soothing her through every wave of sobs.
Joe had no idea what to do. But he did all he could – he'd saved her, at least, this girl who probably hated him. He sat with her in the alley, cradling her small body in his arms, while she cried until she was all finished. Then he still sat there, Lauren still curled up against him.
"How did you know to come?" Lauren whispered after what seemed like hours.
"I saw him following you from the club," Joe explained. "Thought he looked dangerous."
"Yeah," Lauren squeaked, sniffling. "He was a little bit dangerous."
"A little bit," Joe replied. "Yeah." He smoothed the hair out of her face.
"So," she muttered shakily, looking up at him with big, brown eyes. "How about that date?"
And then Lauren began to cry again.
It was nearly two-am. Jaime and Julia were frantically calling Lauren's cell phone. It went straight to voicemail every time. They'd gotten back to the apartment late, so they figured that Lauren was already in bed and asleep, seeing as she'd not even come to the club. But when they found her bed empty, they'd gotten worried. They'd called Joey, but he said he hadn't seen her.
They couldn't go out and look, so they paced around the living room and kitchen, waiting for something to happen. A phone call. Anything.
At last, there was a knock at the door.
"Open up," Joe called from the other side. He sounded tired.
Julia, who was standing in the kitchen, looked at Jaime, sitting on the couch. "That's Joe," she said. They both scrambled to the door to open it.
"Oh my God," Julia said, "What happened?"
Joe was carrying Lauren, who was either asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unresponsive in his arms. She looked terrible, like she'd been hit by a bus. And Joe didn't look much better. He walked past Julia and Jaime, and placed Lauren on the couch.
He explained to Jaime and Julia what had happened, and said that Lauren was mostly okay, just bruised and scraped. There would be more emotional damage than physical. While he wasn't a doctor, he had taken a first aid class. He checked her for concussion and any fractures, coming up good. He'd wanted to take her to the hospital, but she'd protested, saying she was so close to home, and she wasn't that badly hurt. He finally agreed, scooping her up in his arms, as she was in no position to stand, let alone walk. She'd told him where her apartment was, which was good, because she'd fallen asleep before they were even to the building.
Julia had gotten a warm wash cloth, and was wiping the filth from Lauren's face. "I can't believe it," she said. She was sitting beside Lauren on the couch, Jaime standing behind it, Joe kneeling at Lauren's head.
"It's a good thing you came along," Jaime added. "Thank you."
"Yes," Julia agreed, sincerely. "Thank you so much. And I'm sure Lauren would thank you, too." She looked down at Lauren. She was so small, lying on that couch. She could only imagine what would have happened to her if Joe hadn't been there.
Lauren made a soft sound, and moved her head, blinking open her eyes. "Hmm?"
"Shh," Jaime said, coming around to the side. "Everything's alright. You're back home now."
"We need to get her to bed," Julia instructed.
"I'm tired," Lauren muttered, almost inaudible.
"So well you should be," Joe said, gingerly cradling her in his arms again, and taking her to her room. Julia led him there, and tucked her in once she was safely in bed.
"Thanks, Joe," she whispered again, as he stood up.
"No problem," he said softly back. He looked to Julia and Jaime, who was looking in at the door. "I'll get going."
"Be safe," Julia wished him, on his way back out.
"Aren't I always?" he said with a soft smile. He shut the door behind him. Julia and Jaime looked in at Lauren, already fast asleep in her bed, still looking disheveled. But they were just thankful she was there and safe.
This chapter is probably the most loosely based off of it's song, but, in this case, the story came before the muse. Oops. Lemme know what you think. :)