Yukiru crept through the alleys between squares, trying to avoid everyone on the street. Every time she heard voices or shoes slapping against pavement, she flattened herself against a wall and held her breath, the only sound was the growling of her stomach. She hadn’t eaten anything in two days, and her body wasn’t letting her forget it. Her formerly skin tight jeans sagged off of her waist and she’d had to use a belt to hold them up. She wore sneakers made for cross country running in case she had to make a hasty retreat. She just hoped she had the energy to run when the time came.
Sometimes the FEMA drop zones got wild with people fighting over food. A month ago they used trucks to make the deliveries but those were too easily overrun with rogue gangs of angry citizens. The city had organized regular patrols of soldiers from Hunter Army Airfield and they had helped with containing the violence but there simply weren’t enough of them to go around.It was dangerous to journey into downtown, but Yukiru had no other choice.
An army jeep rolled past her packed with troops holding their weapons. They packed tear gas as well in case another food riot broke out. She knew they would be heading toward the drop zone. One of them saw her and said something to the soldier next to him in the truck, but thankfully they didn’t stop. The sound of the helicopter in the distance got louder, too close. She didn’t have much time. Groups of people ran past with backpacks or cloth grocery bags, all intent on making it to the drop before everything was taken. There was no use in hiding now, she would need to run the rest of the way to get there in time to claim one of the emergency kits.
As she takes her first step toward Johnson Square a hand slaps over her mouth and pulls her backward. “Don’t scream,” he whispered.
Yukiru fought down the urge to scratch and bite the man. He whispered so close to her face and she smelled old coffee and cheese on his breath.
“I’m not going to hurt you, if you cooperate.” His left hand caressed her side wrested at her hip where it squeezed her firmly. “ Are you going to cooperate?”
She nodded her head. He trailed the tip of a knife down her back and reached under her t-shirt slicing her bra off in one quick stroke. He’s done this before. He slipped a hand inside her shirt and squeezed her left breast. His fingers were callused and rough like sandpaper.
He pushed her face against the red brick wall, the sharp edges cutting into her check. She heard him sound of him unzip his pants. Will he kill me after? Maybe it would be better if he did. She shook all over with fear. “W-Why do are you doing this?”
He laughed a little at the question, grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head backward. “Because I can.” He licked the side of her face and when his tongue slipped into her ear like a fat wet slug she couldn’t stifle a scream.
With her eyes squeezed tight she hadn’t noticed the other man approach. One moment rough fingers were tugging at her jeans, and they next they stopped. Her eyes snapped open.
The sound behind her was a combination gasp and gurgle. She turned around to see her attacker was slumped backwards and lifeless in the arms of another man holding a knife of his own. He let the body of her would-be rapist fall to the ground like a sack full of rocks.
The hooded man came closer and gave the body a severe kick to the back. He looked at her and she could see pale green eyes staring back from the hood. “Did he hurt you?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, are you going to?”
“No, but you should go home,” he advised. “It’s not safe for a female alone on the streets anymore, even during daylight.”
She looked down at her shoes, ashamed of being so foolish. “I know, but I was so hungry.”
The hooded man shrugged out of the backpack he wore and retrieved something in a wrapper. It was a peanut butter and chocolate protein bar, “Here, take this.”
Yukiru reached for the food and their fingertips touched for just a moment. She tore the wrapper off and took three successive bits of the protein bar as if she thought someone might take it from her.
“We need to get out of here before someone notices the body.”
“Lead the way,” she said and in that moment realized she was putting her faith in the hands of a man she’d never met.
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