This story is by Shantel Brunton and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“You’ll never get that knife out; not at the angle it’s at,” Anthony said. He wore his usual leather jacket. She thought she saw the bulge of a handgun in his pocket, but couldn’t be sure. It would be nice to shoot him, to pay him back for stabbing her. “Just let me help you, Nadia. I’ll pull it out and bandage it for you.”
“Get away from me,” Nadia said through gritted teeth. She shook, but it wasn’t from fear. The room was freezing and when she talked, it was hard to keep her teeth from chattering. Wind blew in through the cracks in the walls, howling like lost souls. Her clothing afforded her little protection; her cargo pants were as thin as paper, her tank top had gotten ripped along the way, and morphed into a crop top. Chemo had robbed her of her hair, and without her crown of raven black locks her head always seemed to feel cold. Too bad she had lost her hat.
She almost laughed at the thought of that. She was complaining about a lost hat when she had a knife through her shoulder. It had gone right through her tissue and sunk into the wall behind her. Anthony had finally succeeded in keeping her in one place. He had plenty of opportunities when she rotted away in that hospital bed, but at least there she could have the nurses kick him out.
“It’s nice to have alone time,” he said and leaned in closer. He smelled like cigarettes and sweat.
“I told you to get out of my life,” she said.
“That was the chemo talking. You don’t really want to leave me.”
“I’d rather die than stay with you.” She wrapped her hand around the knife’s handle to keep him from touching it. She should’ve been in pain, but she only felt cold. She had suffered enough, and this almost seemed like nothing after leukemia. The hospital visits became pure torture, and the drugs they gave her to keep her alive were more of a poison. She threw up every meal she ate, and then to make things even worse, she threw up blood. Her blood looked more like tar and tasted just about as bad.
“Don’t say that.”
He pressed his mouth against hers in some horrid imitation of a kiss. His teeth banged against hers, and then he shoved his vodka soaked tongue down her throat. He continued to kiss her neck and rub his hands over her body. She didn’t have enough leverage to kick him.
“We belong together,” he said. Their relationship had always been something convenient, but for her it was never about love. Then she had gotten sick, and she couldn’t afford to pay for her treatments. If she was alone, she wouldn’t have cared, but she had to care for her ten-year-old sister, Kat. Her leukemia had progressed to a point where she couldn’t work, and Anthony stepped up and took them in. He said he would take care of her and Kat. She was too sick to argue, even though she knew he did questionable things for money.
“I don’t like your business. Those parties you throw with all those young girls, and all those men.”
“The girls are strippers, you know that. The clubs keep a roof over our heads and keep you alive.”
Something about it still rubbed her the wrong way. She knew deep down that many if not all of those girls were there against their will. She overheard conversations that made her blood run cold. The other men talked about selling virgin girls to the highest bidder. It was a human trafficking ring.
She knew she had to get Kat out of there. She had caught Anthony leering at her one too many times. She wouldn’t let Kat end up like those other girls in Anthony’s club who had lifeless eyes like someone had drained their will to live. Kat went to live with one of her friends from school. At least she wouldn’t be around Anthony anymore.
Nadia had gotten sicker and had to be hospitalized. She tried to break it off with Anthony, but he wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t decide which was worse, the cancer or him. The doctors told her without a transfer she wouldn’t make it. “Don’t worry, babe,” Anthony said. “You won’t stay on some waitlist. I’ll pay a donor, but it’s going to cost a lot”.
“Don’t hurt anyone.”
“I’d do anything for you,” he said.
She knew something was wrong. All of his money was blood money, and she couldn’t accept it, “No, I’ll stay on the waitlist.”
“You’d rather die, than take my help.”
“If I die, then so be it.”
“Rot in this hospital for all I care.”
As the days passed, her doses of chemo increased. After her treatments she had sudden bursts of energy and wanted to go running. She settled for walking about the halls and trying to make other patients smile. She talked to Kat every day and told her she’d be home soon enough. They’d get their own place and everything would be okay. The doctors were amazed by how quickly she was recovering. They ran some more tests and found her leukemia was gone. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Her joy was short lived. Shortly after her new diagnosis, she received a disturbing video of Kat who was half naked, chained to a wall, begging for mercy. One of the men in the back of the video said, “Stay in the hospital and get your transplant, or try to save your sister. The choice is yours.” They gave her an address to an abandoned warehouse and told her to come alone.
When she arrived at the warehouse, that was when she found Anthony, and the fight ensued. She kicked him in the chest and tried to disarm him. When they struggled over the blade, he shoved her against the wall and punched her in the face. For a moment everything went black, and then the knife pierced through her right shoulder.
“You’re not going anywhere now.” He wrapped his hand around her throat and forced her to look at him. His hand felt like a talon clawing at her body.
“Where is Kat?” she demanded as he continued to grope her. The blade moved within her shoulder and she knew she’d have to be careful in order to avoid hitting the artery.
“We don’t have to talk about that now. I’m sorry I stabbed you.”
He reached to stick his hand down her pants and that was all she could take. She ripped the knife out from her shoulder and awkwardly tried to stab him in the groin. Her aim was poor and she plunged it into his thigh instead. Before she could pull it out, he reached into his pocket for his gun. He fired one round but missed at point blank range.
“Where is Kat?”
“Get away from me.” he limped backwards. His hands shook, and he struggled to hold on to the gun.
“Don’t pull that knife out,” she took another step forward. A bullet flew past her, but she didn’t flinch. He didn’t listen to her and ripped the knife out. He hit an artery, and the blood flow was magnificent. She took the gun from him. “Where is she? Is she here?”
“Please don’t hurt me.” He dropped to his knees.
“How many girls have said that to you?”
“I’m begging you.”
“I don’t have time for this.”
“Kat, are you here? Come out?”
“Nadia,” Kat cried and ran to her from the shadows.
Anthony tried to lunge for them, but Nadia shot him in the chest three times. Her stomach churned, and she almost threw up. She grabbed her phone and dialled 911, telling them to hurry.
“Are you okay? Did anyone hurt you?”
“You’re asking me if I’m okay. Look at you. You’re bleeding so much.”
“Kat, answer me.”
“I’m fine. Oh my god; it’s so much blood.”
“Shhh, the bleeding will stop.”
“I’m so glad you found me. I thought I’d never see you again.”
“Nothing could ever keep me from you. No matter what happens, I will always keep you safe. Do you hear me? Always. That’s a promise; I love you so much.” She wrapped her arms around Kat and held her tight. They clung to each other as they left the warehouse and stepped outside. The night was dead still, but the silence was broken by the wailing of sirens. Nadia smiled up at the shining stars. No more cancer, no more Anthony, and she had her sister.