This is chapter two of WOVEN. I hope that you enjoy it. I should note that this work does contain profanity.
“Night Grey.” Antonia saluted to her co-worker after she locked the door to the café and checked it to be sure that it was secure.
“Are you certain that I can’t give you a ride Toni?”
“No, I’ll be fine. You know that I like to walk.” Grey scowled down at her.
“You know that I am doing a terrible job as a man not making you get in the car right now. If anything ever happened to you your aunt would skin me alive!”
“Aunt Sofia loves you Grey. I’ll be fine. Really. It’s just a few blocks. Good neighborhood, well lit.” She gestured to all of the streetlights surrounding the two of them.
“Okay. Be safe. See you tomorrow, Toni.”
“Night.” He squeezed her arm and walked away to his car.
Toni enjoyed the quiet. She loved walking, and she loved the city. She loved the way that the old houses were mixed up with the apartment buildings and the small businesses. It was like a really big neighborhood all over town. She loved the people of her city. They were so quirky and interesting. She loved Portland.
She kept walking past her apartment complex and headed south further into the city. She went up toward the parks not even really noticing it. It wasn’t that she had anything particular on her mind, she just had lots of thoughts in her head, and spring was coming, and the early city night smelled so good to her for some reason.
It wasn’t so much that she was bored as it was that she was well, in a rut maybe. She couldn’t be bored. She held down three jobs that she didn’t financially need but they kept her busy, kept her thinking. She might not be so stir crazy if it weren’t for the fact that it was the off-season at the ballet and Jeff didn’t have much need of her.
Maybe she missed Jeff. No she didn’t, she couldn’t, and she had seen him yesterday for goodness sake! You are thinking like a crazy person Toni, she thought to herself. What on earth is wrong with you?
Antonia was happy for Jeff, really happy for him. They had been best friends since performing arts school, almost ten years ago. Toni had moved out to Portland because of Jeff. He had gotten a job in choreography with the ballet and had offered her a position as his occasional assistant and creative consultant. Jeff insisted that if it hadn’t been for the accident Toni would still be on stage. He was her biggest supporter. Jeff had convinced her that she should get away from the family back in New York, that she would love the rainy northwest city. They were roommates for years until, just recently, Jeff met Andrew, and well, they needed their own place.
This was the first time that Jeff was in a really serious relationship, besides friendship, and Toni was happy for him and truly proud of him. Jeff had been a terrible slut for years. He would hang out at the clubs, and meet guys. They fell at his feet like flies. Maybe it was his dancer’s muscles, but then that angle didn’t really work for Toni, poor dateless-for-over-a-year Toni. It was probably Jeff’s amazing smile, or some sort of sex appeal that Toni didn’t understand. He never brought any of those guys home. He would wave goodbye and wink as he left a bar with a man, but she never ran into one in the kitchen the next morning, until Andrew. She had always wondered if Jeff was really capable of settling into a serious relationship with a mature man. It turned out that he was.
Toni loved Andrew. The two men really did need their own space though. She told Jeff that she was apartment hunting the day after she walked in on the guys going at it in the kitchen. She was still trying to burn the vision from her mind. Yuck, it was like walking in on her brother, or brothers as the case may have been.
Andrew had made Toni fall head over heels for him just as easily as he had done it to Jeff. He was a statue of a man with a soft voice and a sexy beard with salt and pepper flecks. He was kind and sentimental, the sort of man that you longed to grab you up in a bear hug. He had children that were Jeff and Toni’s age. That was a little weird, but when she saw them together Antonia’s heart simply filled up. She knew that Andrew would do anything to keep her best friend happy for the rest of his life. They were perfect.
Maybe I’m lonely, Toni thought. But I’m around people all the time, all day long. If anybody should be lonely it’s the cat as little as I am at home. Wow, and I guess that I lied to Grey because I am no longer in a neighborhood that is well lit. She didn’t feel ready to head back yet though. Maybe I should give Ryan a call…what? What are you thinking? That guy was completely into himself and not into you at all.
The trees were just getting ready to bud, she noticed them even in the midnight dark, and she enjoyed the sound of her work shoes as they padded the sidewalk. She had a quick deliberate pace, not headed towards any destination, just moving forward in a determined way, a beat. Her steps were earthy and rhythmic.
Why had she ever even been with Ryan? He was attractive, well, in a tall physical way, but she had learned pretty quickly that he was more or less a bully. Not a beat up on people for entertainment sort of bully. He was a bully in the way that he would subtly degrade the people around him to make himself feel better. He had mentioned more than once that Toni was just spoiled and lucky. She had never thought that of herself before Ryan. She was a hard worker. She was dedicated and loyal. She didn’t shy away from commitment and family obligation. Sure, she had had an easy upbringing and a perfect education that was paid for and nurtured and encouraged. Her parents had expected performance in return for that though. They never would have supported her pursuits in dance if they hadn’t noticed her aptitude and talent at an early age. If she had ever failed to put in all of the hard work, the sweat and blood, they would have been disappointed and they would have told her as much.
Ryan was completely off base. He insulted people to throw them off, even his close friends. He made them feel smaller so that he would appear bigger and more important in their eyes. Maybe that was why his friendships didn’t last very long. He was witty; super slick when it came to banter and conversation. He drew people in before he began to put them down. Why had it taken her so long to figure out what an ass he was? She had been confident from the time that she was, well, just a girl.
Toni heard steps behind her. Fast ones. Must be a jogger, she thought, they were a little too fast though. Somebody was sprinting towards her. Then she felt him, from behind. He slammed into her so hard that she hit the pavement with a thud. She could swear that she heard a crack when her forehead collided with the blacktop.
“You scream. You die.” Antonia heard the voice growl from behind her as the man pressed a knife to her throat. This was the nightmare, this was what no woman ever thought could happen to her. Though the information was everywhere, though she knew that she was supposed to be careful, why hadn’t she let Gray drive her home? Why hadn’t she just stopped at the apartment?
In his other hand he wrenched her wrists together behind her back and hauled her upright. She winced, but was too afraid to cry out. She could feel her heart beating hard, not in her chest, but in the wound on her forehead. He shoved her forward, towards the woods on the side of the trail she thought, it was hard to see though. She had tears in her eyes and blood running into them as well. His smell was all around her. It was terrible. Sweat and booze and fear maybe. But it couldn’t be worse than hers…
He shoved her down to the ground then flipped her over and sat on top of her pinning her to the forest floor. She was trembling, crying, and shaking her head. She thought that she could make out a menacing smile, or a sneer, on his face through the red blur that was blocking her vision. God, I’m pathetic, I can’t even plead with him, can’t even speak, she thought. I know that he’s going to kill me. I am supposed to, what? Negotiate, talk to him, tell him who I am, humanize myself? Tell him my name? Just tell him your name Toni! But she couldn’t speak.