I never meant to run and I didn't. I couldn't get away… I needed to run. I've always needed to run.
Chapter 9 – Can't Break the Bad Luck
Things were good. Rapunzel had nothing to complain about. Nothing, except one thing.
It was spring and there was a mass supply of only three kinds of flowers in New Sonnenberg: violets, daffodils, and tulips. There was only one kind of tree that the city workers ever planted in the medians and on the sidewalks: Bradford Pear's, which had a funny scent and white blossoms and were completely und utterly uncolorful. Rapunzel knew that in other parts, flowers and trees were budding and blooming, their color bursting through and banishing the last trace of winter. Rapunzel could not deny that it was nice to have plant life, but she wanted a variety. She found she was becoming addicted to variety.
It had only been two weeks since she moved in with Eugene and things were so, so different, but she could not figure out why. She still woke up, still ate breakfast, still went to class, still saw Pascal and Max, but she was doing things different. She was dressing different, speaking different, acting different. She looked at herself in the mirror and she was no longer the Rapunzel Moore who was scared of people and taking chances. She was becoming out going, talking with people she never would have before. She stopped hiding in her long hair, relying on it to protect her from ridicule, tying it back and showing her face. Her green eyes were clear and she was happy. She was actually happy. Pascal told her one day that it was because of Eugene, but Rapunzel scoffed at the idea. Eugene was just a friend.
It had not taken that long to become used to living with Eugene, and even if it had, he would not have said anything. He did everything he could to make his apartment feel like home to her: he bought a house plant, put air fresheners around the apartment, and had cleaned it out. Rapunzel had no idea what he did with all the clutter, but it was gone. One day, she got home from school and all the paper was gone, the clothes were picked up, and even some of his books were gone. He even took a few of the movie and video game posters down. His little toys sat out, but his airplane models were gone. He had also cleared out the spare room. Rapunzel never saw what he kept in there, but she figured it must have looked like the rest of the apartment. She had unpacked her things in there, setting it up like an art studio, her easel put by the window and her sewing machine sat on a table Eugene had picked up for her. Eugene got her hangers and she had hung her clothes up in the closet there. She had no bed, or even a futon, so Eugene still slept on the couch. He said he didn't mind, but Rapunzel felt bad. He didn't know it, but she noticed that he kept waking up stiff, cracking his neck and back, his feet snapping as he walked across the hard wood floors. He offered to buy her a bed, but she wanted to earn the money herself.
Since she had quit modeling, Rapunzel had no source of income. She got a part time job at an art supply store, Sea Shell Paint. She liked the job: her boss was nice and the customers were nice too. What Rapunzel liked best about the job, though, was that she was around art supplies. The smell of acrylic paint, paper, canvas, and pencils was like incense to her. Being around that smell didn't even compare to the bonus of getting art supplies at a discount.
Things were going well for her. She was free from her aunt; she felt like she could breathe again. Rapunzel had even gotten full control of her bank account. Eugene had done something to get it; she had no idea what he did and she decided she did not want to know.
Midterm had passed and Rapunzel was still passing all of her classes. She was attending class as usual, talking with other classmates and finding she rather liked conversing with people. She was even going to Vlad's more.
Eugene worked until two a.m. most nights at Vlad's. When Rapunzel did not have class the next day, she'd go there and hang out. Jeff and Raven were usually there, as was Mr. Hook. Even Max showed up nights when he wasn't on duty. Pascal came too, not wanting to be left out. He fit in right away; Pascal was already a brony.
Nights at Vlad's were always enjoyable. No one would really get drunk, but they could get just as rowdy. Somehow, nights at Vlad's would either end with someone winning an argument (Usually it was Eugene, Max or Pascal) or someone getting in a fight.
Case and point, one night Raven and Rapunzel sat at the bar with Jeff, who was talking to Vald behind the counter. The other boys were at a booth singing one of Pinkie Pie's songs (it had been a night when they got drunk). Raven was talking about her day at work and how a student of hers had squeezed an entire bottle of glue into another child's hair during naptime.
"The poor girl was so sure she was going to have to get all her hair cut off, I had to call her mother and ask her to take her home so she could wash the glue out."
"Poor thing," Rapunzel sympathized. Suddenly, a guy came up behind Raven, elbowing Jeff and knocking him to the floor. Raven heard the sound and turned around. She saw her husband on the floor and the man who had put him there. He was a handsome man: dark hair, sharp features, tall. He grinned at Raven.
"You, are a tall glass of white milk and might I just add-" But he didn't get to add anything; Raven punched him in the face. He kiltered off his center, gripping the bar for support. Jeff had gotten up. He put a hand on the guy's shoulder and turned him around.
"That tall glass of white milk is my wife." And then Jeff hit the guy. He went down. Jeff grabbed the guy's shirt collar and dragged the man outside. Rapunzel watched him go, her mouth agape. She looked back at Raven. She was smiling, a dirty thought playing in her head. She looked Rapunzel in the eye.
"Yeah, he's like that in bed too."
Eugene came up behind Rapunzel, back from serving food. He put a hand on hers.
"Jeff is the strong jealous type," he explained.
"I think I noticed that." A few minutes later, Jeff came back. Raven rewarded him with a kiss and asked if he wanted to head home. Rapunzel saw a glint of a plan other than sleeping in Raven's eye. The couple said good night. As she passed Rapunzel, Raven gave her a wink. Rapunzel smiled nervously, waving, not liking that her suspicions had been correct. She didn't really want to know about people's personal lives.
Most of the time, nothing of incident happened at Vlad's. It was just a group of friends hanging out. However, there were a few more times when the two thugs from Eugene's old gang showed up. Eugene still ducked out the back, taking Rapunzel with if she was there. Vlad and whoever was still there would go and beat them up and Eugene and Rapunzel would get home without a scratch.
When Rapunzel and Eugene were both home, she'd cook meals for him. He kept telling her she didn't have to do all the cooking, that he could cook too, but Rapunzel insisted.
"It's the least I can do for you, Eugene. You've given me a place to stay and even your bed. I can't do much for you, so please, let me do this." He really didn't press the point much; he liked her cooking.
Rapunzel was happy where she was now. She was even singing a song she hadn't thought about since she was seven. She sang it when she worked around the apartment: dusting, sweeping, washing dishes. Eugene heard it one day when he was working on a paper for a class. He was sitting in the dining area, clacking away at the keys of his computer, papers and books strewn over the table, a pen in his mouth. All that was missing was a pair of reading glasses pushed up on his head. Rapunzel was folding laundry in the sitting room, singing softly to herself. Eugene heard her voice and stopped typing to listen.
"Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine. Make the clock reverse. Bring back what once was mine. Heal what has been hurt, change the fate's design. Save what has been lost. Bring back what once was mine. What once was mine." The sun shone in through one of the windows with the colored glass bottles and a rainbow had been thrown over Rapunzel; she glowed in the color. Eugene took the pen out of his mouth and stared at her.
"Beautiful," Eugene had said. She didn't jump, but she had not realized she was singing loud enough to be heard. "What is it," Eugene asked.
"It's a song my mom used to sing to me. I'd almost forgotten it, but it suddenly filtered back in." Rapunzel tried to brush Eugene's comment off, to hide she had been a bit embarrassed.
"I like it." Eugene went back to his typing. Rapunzel went back to the laundry; her cheeks rosy from his words. She had no idea why they burned, but they had been doing that of late, but only when Eugene said something to her. It also made her heart swell.
Though it had only been two weeks, Rapunzel decided that she would not change anything: her home, her job, her friends, her life. She liked it all way too much. Things finally seemed to be going right for her for once.
Rapunzel's focus was still mainly on school, but she was focusing on her new job too. It was something she had picked, not someone else, and she wanted to do it at 110%.
Eugene, Max or Pascal usually swung by Sea Shell Paint to take her home, but one night, Rapunzel had taken a double shift and none of them could come and see her home. She had said it was fine, she could get back to the apartment by herself.
Her boss told her she could leave at the end of the day, that he would close up. She quickly bought some new tubes of paint and said good-bye. She stepped out into the late evening, sad to smell the city air instead of the art supplies.
The bus stop was not exactly close to the art store, so Rapunzel had a ways to walk. She pulled out her phone, to see if anyone had called her or texted her. Just as she flipped it open, it buzzed, with one new text message from Eugene.
[Hey, Vlad said I could come get you. Have you already left?]
[Yeah. I'm halfway to the bus stop. You don't need to worry.]
[Alright. See you at home.]
Rapunzel smiled. Why was she not surprised that Eugene had still tried to come see her home. She shook her head, thinking he didn't need to be such a gentleman all the time.
Rapunzel had a street to cross to get to the nearest bus stop and it was still at the head of the street from there. Rapunzel waited for the light and hurried across. When she got to the other side, she saw the reflection of a large man right behind her. She didn't turn around, or even think much about it. She kept her normal pace.
She walked up the street. Her ears echoed with the footsteps behind her. She frowned. Why was that man following so close? She quickened her step and soon left the sound behind. But it came back. Now Rapunzel worried. She was being followed.
Every muscle in her body screamed to run, but she knew that would be the wrong thing to do. She was highly conscious of her heart rate quickening and she tried to think calmly. She needed to get inside someplace, but all the stores on her side of the street were either closed or closing. If only she could get to the bus stop. She walked faster still.
It sounded like the man was right on top of her. Terror made her heart beat faster. The bus stop, she needed to get to the bus stop.
The bus stop was at the top of a hill. As soon as she crested it, the small terminal would be in sight. She just needed a few more steps.
A hulking figure jumped in front of her from a space between two buildings. She tried to dodge, but he put his arm out and grabbed her. He covered her mouth and pulled her into the alley, her follower going too.
Rapunzel had been ambushed.
The men took her deep into the alley. She tried to resist. She kicked, bit, licked, scratched, but it did nothing. Her captor's grip was strong, his arm the size of a table leg. He let her go, throwing her against the garbage dumpster. Her back cracked against the metal. She stood shakily up, taking a big breath of air, ready to scream. A gun was pointed in her face. She swallowed the air. Rapunzel stared down the barrel and all she could see was fear.
"We just want to talk," said one of the towering men. It was the one who had followed her.
He was ugly; not as ugly as Jeff, but still not pretty to look at. His features were bloated, all except his eyes, which were set far into his face, giving the illusion that they were small, like a pig's. He had red hair and a great big scar running down the side of his face. The other man was just as ugly. In fact, he was as ugly: he was identical to the other man, except, he had an eye patch and a scar on his chin. He was the one holding the gun. The other man had a knife he swung in his hand. Rapunzel looked up at them, petrified.
"Talk about what?" If she did what they wanted, she might not get hurt.
"Well, you see, we have a friend in common."
"Yeah, Eugene Fitzherbert. You know him."
"We've seen you walking out of his bar at night. Hard to miss a blonde head like that." Rapunzel shook her head.
"I only know Eugene in passing. I don't really know, know him."
"Well, that's funny. We've seen him with his arm around you. Unless, you spread your legs for anybody?" The man with the scar turned to Eye Patch, grinning. He turned back to Rapunzel. "We've been wanting to talk to Eugene for awhile now, but we seem to keep missing each other."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"See, we and Eugene go way back. We used to run the underground of a whole section of this city, but then, the mother fucker went and stabbed us in the back. Now, does that seem right to you?" Rapunzel shook her head. "Now, we've gotten into bigger and better things and we're willing to forgive and forget, but he's got to come back to the gang. He ever mention us?"
"Eugene mentions a lot of things."
"Heh, I'm sure he does. We're the Stabbington brothers. We've got a pretty big operation here in New Sonnenburg. Drugs, smuggling, counterfeiting, even some things we won't mention to a pretty face like you." Rapunzel gulped. "We're willing to let our old buddy back in, but only if he's willing to kiss our feet. Get it?" The brother leaned over Rapunzel. She shrunk back against the dumpster. She needed to keep the conversation going, wishing that they would just pull the gun out of her face.
"Why tell me this?"
"Because, we need a messenger and you spend an awful lot of time with him. So, why don't you be a good little girl and tell him for us."
"Sure, whatever you want. I'll tell him. I'll tell him. Go back to the gang or you'll break his legs, right?"
"Ooh, she's a smart one." The brother with the knife grinned at his twin. He slipped his knife into a sheath at his belt. Thinking she was safe, Rapunzel moved a foot to get away from the two.
Eye Patch fired a shot at her. It whizzed past her ear, making her stop. She smelled the singed air. She looked at the two, horrified. The scarred brother clicked his tongue.
"Looks like someone is a little too eager to leave. It'd be such a shame if we let you go without a parting gift." The brother with only the scar put his face close to Rapunzel's. He slipped his hand behind her, placing it on her back. He brought his other hand up to her face and stroked her chin. "We'd be gentle, unless you like it rough."
Oh, dear, God in heaven, they're going to RAPE me!
Rapunzel squirmed to get out of the man's grasp. He let her go, but grabbed her arm, squeezing too tight. Rapunzel was sure he'd snap it in half. She stopped struggling just enough to keep the pain down. He jerked her around, putting his putrid breath in her face again.
"Looks like someone wants it rough." Rapunzel glowered at the man and then spat in his eye. He cried out in shock and threw her to the ground, wiping the saliva from his face. Rapunzel scrambled to her feet, taking up a metal pipe that had just been lying there. And just in time too. Eye Patch was coming towards her. He pointed the gun in her direction, but she swung the pipe on his wrist. The gun fell from his hand and he clutched his wrist in pain. Rapunzel dropped her makeshift weapon and ran. She didn't stop running until she got to the bus stop and thanked heaven that the bus was there. She got on, paid her fee and sat in the back.
Rapunzel tried to control her breathing, but it was hard. She shook all over.
They were going to rape me. They were going to rape me.
The bus reached Clairbourne Road and Rapunzel got off. She looked over her shoulder, glancing at everyone, suspicious and terrified. She got to Flynnigan's Tower of Books bookstore and went to the back stairs. She fumbled with the locks and got inside.
She was so thankful Eugene was not home. She did not want him to see her like this. She sat down on the couch and turned on the TV. She didn't care if there wasn't anything on. She needed to drown out her thoughts.