A word typically ascribed to fragmented, useless things – not people.
A word most would easily impose upon a woman like Dacia, knowing she’s been through the kind of things that are meant to leave a person fragmented.
A word that comes with pre-conceived notions, judgements… limitations.
None of which she embraces, or accepts.
Because what if putting the pieces back together is the very thing that makes her stronger?
I was being followed.
For days now, if not weeks.
For that long, I’d been certain.
It was always at a distance, never close enough that the average person would even notice, most likely. That meant they were good at it, which was worrisome.
The thing was, I wasn’t the average woman - maybe they knew that, maybe they didn’t.
If they didn’t know, that was a good thing. For me, at least. Maybe not for them. But if they did, and followed me anyway, well… let’s just hope they didn’t.
The soles of my athletic shoes made a steady tap, tap, tap, against the pavement as I trotted up the half-lit sidewalk, not wanting to break my pace. I was tired, and really should’ve been winding down from my too-early in the morning meditation session.
That’s what this was for me - supposed to be something peaceful, a way to clear my mind. But now I was on edge, because someone had interrupted my serenity.
Just the thought of it made me angry, because… how dare they?
I didn’t cross anyone, didn’t mess with anybody.
I minded my business, just lived my life.
All I wanted was solitude - to be left alone and not reminded of what my life used to be, so I could remain firmly planted in what it was now.
I just… I wouldn’t live like that anymore.
Today, whatever this was, was about to stop.
This is a terrible idea, a little voice in my head popped up, as I suddenly rounded into an alley that was definitely not on my plan. I pushed that to the back of my mind though, forcing myself to regulate my breathing as I pulled my body into a fighting stance.
At first, it was quiet except for the music still playing in one ear. The street was quiet, the residential area tucked far enough away from the glitz and glam of what most attributed to Vegas to be polluted by the constant traffic and noise.
Gently, I pulled the other bud from my ear, tucking it into the relative safety of my sports bra. Once I’d done that, the steady patter of the other runner’s shoes coming up the pavement was clear as a bell.
Maybe it was a coincidence.
Maybe this was just someone else who’d taken to using the quiet of early morning as their personal sanctuary, like I had. As the footsteps drew closer, I doubted myself, wondering if I was just being paranoid.
God knows I had plenty of reason for that.
But as the time ticked down for me to either act or let them pass, I remembered the admonition I’d received from the wisest person I knew.
If you feel like something isn’t right, trust it.
I didn’t trust this.
Not at all.
Because of that, it took little for me to draw on the strength of pure adrenaline, timing myself to put my full power into a high kick just as the other runner was passing the alley.
I felt connected, but whoever was on the receiving end absorbed the blow like it was nothing, grabbing my thigh to take away my momentum.
Instead of relying on the more prevalent strength of my legs, I used my fists, raining blows wherever I could land them even though I could barely see my dark-clad attacker in the dark. There was too much going on - too much blood rushing through my ears, too much fear coursing through my veins.
I could hear myself being told to stop, but I wouldn’t.
If I had to die right here on the street, so be it, but I would give every ounce of strength in my body towards the cause of not being taken.
The sound of my name on my assailant’s lips cut right through all the chaos of the moment. Now, icy fear crept up my spine as I realized this was absolutely a worst-case scenario.
Strong hands gripped my wrists, easily pinning them together while they pushed me out to be held at a distance.
“Dacia, stop it. It’s me.”
I blew out a stream of air, trying to clear the hair from my face so I can see who “me” was. I wasn’t even sure how the puff I’d secured it into this morning had come undone, but it took a helping hand from my captor to push the wild coils out of my eyes so I could see into his.
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