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One

"Lia! Over here!" I could just about recognize my friend beckoning through the generic music and thick chatter. Typical dive bar atmosphere. The place was surprisingly packed, despite how small it was. The walls were a plain burgundy and littered with event posters, every inch of the room looked like a contemporary designer's wet dream. Despite all this, the place stunk, and I was sure if the lights were on it wouldn't be half as bearable. The number of people dressed in blue hues was strange. I'd figured it was some sort of occasion, a win from the local football team perhaps. I didn't feel up to prying for answers though. I turned my attention back to Kathryn, who was stumbling toward her section of the bar, sticking out like a saw thumb in a vibrant red tube dress. She was already grabbing drinks, of course.

"Help me with these, will you?" Kathryn was thrusting the tiny glasses into my grip before I could refuse.

"Really, bitch? You need all these?" I questioned, emphasizing the disapproval in my voice while calculating how much eight tequila shots cost in this place. It's more than easy to underestimate London prices. There was no proper price menu to assess the damage either, but as usual, I let Kathryn do her thing.

"It's not for us... well, some of it is. I guess I should tell you," she paused, searching the room before grinning into the distance. My vision struggled to join hers, wondering how she could bear to look far with the contrast of pink lights and ocean of blue vests. It wasn't until I'd caught onto a corner table on the opposite side of the room, where two guys wearing the same toned shirts were waving us down, ominously in sync.

"You dragged me out to meet these guys? Kath, I thought it was just gonna be you and me tonight-"

"Lia. Listen to me." She'd already started walking off before starting her sentence, forcing me along. "They're nice. You need dick. Two birds one stone." My stomach sunk. One thing about Kath that I never liked was her ego. I mean, of course, I admired it, but sometimes she seemed a little fake. She walked like she knew people were watching, even with her claims to hate being the centre of attention.

"I don't think that's how that phrase works, b." I'd tried to protest, but we had already reached the two. Neither was really immaculate, but I never liked holding people to those standards, especially while I was lacking confidence in myself. Both guys were normal enough, straight white smiles, nice eyes, regular stature. Nothing notable, until I realized one had a blue AND white striped shirt. Still not enough to convince me, however. They stood, took the drinks from us and sat them on the table. We followed and placed ourselves beside each other before I was enclosed in the situation for better or for worse.

"Hey, you're really pretty," The guy with the striped shirt beamed before sitting on my right side. He was hard to hear over everything else. "Your name is Lia, right?"

"Yeah," I returned the smile, not wanting to lean in closer. "What's your name?"

"Charlie, great to finally meet you." His hand took mine from my lap without warning, before gently laying a kiss on the back of it.

"I'm not really comfortable with that," I pulled it back and retreated to playing with my dress. "Just greet me normally, man."

"Ah, keeping it casual, I see. Well, maybe the drinks will help you get comfortable." I doubt it, I thought, but grabbed for one anyway. Charlie's fingers followed mine and grazed as he grabbed the shot beside mine. Already I wanted to leave. This guy didn't know the definition of personal space, and I didn't feel up to teaching him. I wondered if Kath promised him I'd fuck him, as she'd done before, but was she really that stupid? "On the count of-" He'd tried to say, but I'd already necked mine.

"Sorry pal, I like to get there first." My attempts to be difficult were working, but Charlie was persistent.

"Oh, of course. You know, I have no problem with girls getting to go first," He winked, and I could feel the vomit clog in the bottom of my throat. My eyes rolled, only to catch sight of Kathryn already in the other guy's mouth. "So, Lia, tell me a little about yourself."

Charlie's attempts at conversation were cute, in the same way an animal cleaning its arsehole is endearing. I knew I wasn't being fair on this regular horny guy, but Kath was being unfair on me. Too long had I been a third wheel to her one night stands, even when her fuck buddy brought along one for me. I was never comfortable with it, and she knew this.

"Look, man, I'm really not interested, and I know you can tell. Can you just move so I can leave?" Just as I'd asked Charlie's arm moved behind my neck. He was trying to get more comfortable, forcing me back in my seat.

"Already?!" Kath cried, stirring from her make-out session. "We just got here! You've had a drink-"

"Look. You've done this to me way too much lately," My throat was sore from yelling over the bass, and I could see people looking over as the distress came through in my tone. Her expression fell. It was time to lay on the truth. This isn't what friends should do. Maybe if I put her right and officially drew the line she'd listen. "I'm not into the hook-up scene. I've told you I respect you getting it, I just wish you'd respect me not wanting it."

"It's fine, go fuck yourself." Kath snapped before grabbing her date's shirt. "We're going back to mine anyway." Her mouth tensed as if she'd swallowed something sour. We locked eyes completely, reading each other. At that moment, I couldn't find anything I liked about her. That used to be the appeal of our friendship, our differences and how we could confidently be nasty to each other knowing nothing much would happen.

"But we have all the drinks still-" Charlie protested before I cut him off.

"It's fine. I knew I wasn't wanted, just let me pass."

"Fine, fucking bitch." He pretty much spat the words out. Usually, I'd say something back, but my adrenaline had already set off and I'd jumped across before anything else could happen. Arguing with Kathryn always did that to me, and I knew it'd be weeks before we spoke again. I didn't care much anymore. Her act was old, and it's not like she was a good friend either.

By the time I'd reached the exit, I was covered in sweat. Whether it was mine or the crowds, I wasn't sure, but the smell was making me woozy. The initial energy I'd had from the argument was still there, subsided, but enough for me to not catch my breath. Come on, Lia, you're fine. Repeating the words in my head, my legs unsteadily carried me away. There was a thick layer of cigarette stench carrying over from the smoking area, which definitely didn't help the nausea building.

The pavement was unsteady, and though the shot was all I had, I was running on an empty stomach and a whole day's worth of stress. It was coming up to exams and I was sure the heat between Kath and I would make things much harder. We didn't live in the same hall but our friendship group ranged across the building, and with Kathy being the pop-star everyone knows, I was preparing for the shit talk. Then there were the teachers. Mr Tret was already on my ass for an English piece, this night was supposed to be for a catch-up and I laid it all off for some shitty bar and a shitty friend. Shitty, shitty shit.

Why the fuck do I care so much, my mind wondered on. She's only been your friend for a couple of months. If people talk, they talk, but she was in the wrong and they'll come to learn that.

'You're right, why should you care?'

I whipped around. Had I been talking aloud? Was someone listening? There were several drunk guys cackling amongst themselves around the corner, and the usual people heading to the tube station. My feet carried me further, rushing into a part of the area I knew I'd be alone in. I knew this was a stupid move, but I was holding out hope that I was tired.

I had imagined it. Definitely made up. This has been a long day-

'Not quite imaginary, my dear,'

My feet stopped. It was the same voice. Hushed. Gentle. Hungry. I swore I could hear it purring. Another quick scan around showed I really was alone. So what was going on?

"Okay, you can fuck off now." Despite knowing no one was around, and knowing there was no way I could even fight off someone if there was, I stood my ground with clenched fists and a false sense of strength.

'Now now now, that's not very polite.' Strange. The voice was coming less from a general direction, almost directly next to me instead. Maybe it was time to change tactics, especially since it didn't seem like this was leaving anytime soon.

"Okay, I'm going to keep walking, and you're going to leave." Was speaking aloud stupid? Did this thing want to remain in my head? I didn't care. I wanted to get home. My fear was probably incredibly obvious from any passerby's standing, but that didn't matter.

"You're not leaving that easily."

My body twirled instinctively, catching the exact location of this unknown entity. The voice was real this time, coming from a person. The turn only revealed a dark figure a few yards away in the direction I had been walking. My heart froze and locked itself in my throat, forcing my mouth open to inhale, to no avail. I didn't even shake. The air around me was so thick yet cold, goosebumps travelling across my skin. The person still didn't move. Maybe this was some creep from the bar who assumed I was easy prey.

"Say something then, git." Since my feet weren't moving I figured I might as well make something happen. If he ran at me a burst of adrenaline might take over. If he fled that would be even better, of course, but how likely was that to happen? I've heard some of these pricks won't bother if you looked like you'd kick up a fuss. His foot shifted forward. My body's immediate response was to get closer, indicating my hope for a rush may be possible. "Come on then, if you really want some." I continued to push with my words in hope for a rise. They simply stood there, patient. Trying to bait me. "Right then," I swallowed, "if you're not gonna do anything, I'm going to walk away, and you better not follow m-"

My sentence was cut off by a bright, electric light that flashed behind the looming figure. The road shuddered beneath my heels, a rumble emanating throughout my legs before reaching my head.

Just like that, I was gone.