When Riley Spencer got into a train in the middle of the night she never thought it would be to run away. First of all, she wasn't the type of woman who would get scared enough to leave, no matter who or what demanded her to. Except for that one time, but she had had no other choice. Second of all, she liked to plan things out. If she were to leave there was packing involved, tickets to buy and people to call. This special trip involved none of that except a small handbag, a suitcase and a couple of bucks in her pocket.
She could have said no when her friend and right hand told her she had to leave. It was imperative, he had said. And Riley trusted him enough to know if he used a big word like that it was because he was right. He also mentioned something about a gun and two men paying him a visit, so in the end, there wasn't much of a choice.
It was a pity though, she was beginning to like the city again.
Now with the handbag in her hand and one direction to follow Riley Spencer was ready to start a new life. Ready to have a new beginning, no death, no blood and no 15 corpses laying around.
She wasn't going to kill anyone unless it was "strictly necessary" Santino had once told her.
It was a new start just around the corner. At her old home.
The transition between one thing and the other was going to be hard. The city she used to live in was big, full of large buildings, cabs everywhere, crowds and an incredible amount of noise. It was hard to get used to it, but after a few weeks, she didn't feel like an outsider any longer. Once she had made it home, she loved it. Now coming back to her old hometown after being away for five long years would sure turn her world upside down. Considering it was rather small, everyone knew each other and gossipy type of town. If she could have chosen before, a place to stay for a long period of time, she would have probably stayed the heck away from Linhill as possible. But she couldn't. It was that idea that frustrated her the most; not being able to choose her own path.
It was like this; you stay, you die, you leave and you'll survive. She obviously chose the latest. Even if that turned her into a fugitive. There was no way she would allow herself to die, knowing she had so many things left to do, like for example, save the world. At least that had been her intentions when she did the unthinkable.
The train inspector announced the arrival to the station was 5 minutes away and Riley found herself sighing with a hint of regret as the people around her gathered their belongings. She was not in a hurry so she remained sited, staring outside the window as the trees passed by while chaos ensued. When the train stopped and Riley walked out, the cold wind of a typical autumn day hit her face. The scarf Mikey had strategically put on her suitcase provided the warmth she so much needed.
She had forgotten how cold and dark the town was.
The people around her dispersed, all going into different directions, all in a hurry. Riley wasn't. In fact, all she wanted was to drag her arrival at home as much as she could, but noticing how people were already staring at her she decided to finally move.
She looked at the streets as she walked as if the place was unknown to her, and for a second she was momentarily transported back into her childhood. Everything was much simpler back then; all she had to do was to go to school, do her homework and play with her friends. Piece of cake. Back then little did she understand her life wasn't supposed to take a simple path, it was the opposite of that, her life was supposed to end in disaster because according to her mother 'all you'll ever be is a disaster'
Despite being absolutely reluctant to leave, she got used to being alone, away from her family and friends. It was better than being in a place where she wasn't wanted. Though the city she lived before was more than cared for, loved even and she felt more and more comfortable with her surroundings at each passing day. She wasn't supposed to stay there long, but days turned into weeks, then months, then 5 years. And those were the best ones of her life. Except for all the death And the blood And the threats Not to mention the escape run she had to make. Despite all that, she could and would never regret living there. Ever.
Riley walked a few steps more, dragging her luggage as she went by. The wheel case was heavier than she had imagined and she wondered just how many things Mikey had packed for her. Sure there wasn't just clothing. She didn't have time to consider when her destination was right in front of her.
Her old house looked the same as she remembered. Then again how much could a house change? The sapphire blue from the outside was as beautiful as always, it seemed as the years hadn't passed at all. Someone was doing a very good job with it, keeping it clean, less somber than it was supped to be after everything that went through inside. Nobody would have ever guessed that the first wave of violence she had experienced had happened right inside the house she grew up in, and at the hands of someone, she thought to be her best friend.
Riley didn't dare to knock; she figured her sister wouldn't open the door for her even if she knocked for hours. She preferred to call the police if that was the case. So instead she searched for the hidden key on the flower pot, figuring the spot was still used for those who knew. And sure she found it; the silver key.
She sighed heavily, releasing the nervousness and anxiousness pressing her chest. It was the first time she was standing there after 5 years, the first time she looked at her house with a different mentality and stronger than ever. Now if her sister decided to kick her out she could fight back and not shed a single tear.
Riley turned the key and the doorknob and waltzed in. The whole placed breather cleanness. The living room looked brand new and she surprised Lydia would have the time to leave the place spotless considering her job was demanding.
Being away for years didn't mean she wasn't going to use her sources to find out about her sister's doing. Mikey had told her once she had resources, she might as well use them.
She passed by the chimney, touched the sofa her mother used to sit in and admire the family photos that still remained. Those where she wasn't in it, like that could banish her from the entire world.
The woman in question turned around. She found herself face to face with the one she had once called sister, the one she had once called her best friend, her confidant. The one who suddenly turned to nothing, not even dust, not even sand. She was literally nothing to her.
The way Lydia looked at her spoke volumes; there was hatred, surprise, disdain even disgust. But most of all hate. A feeling Riley was quick to recognize and had seen before many times in Lydia, directed exactly to her.
"What are you doing here?" Lydia asked
"The last thing I knew I lived here" Riley replied.
"Lived, past tense, as you don't anymore"
"But I think I have all the right to come back since there's nothing that stops me," Riley said.
"I'll stop you. I'll stop you right now. Leave. This isn't your place anymore" Lydia replied angrily.
"Oh, and whose fault is that?"Riley questioned, dropping her handbag on the floor as she spoke. She wasn't angry, she was passed that. If nothing she was grateful for what had happened, more specifically for what Lydia had done to her because it made her stronger than she ever thought would be.
"You're not welcomed," Lydia said, completely disregarding whatever Riley might be feeling at her words.
"Wouldn't be the first time someone says that to me" Riley said.
She moved past her, into the kitchen and directly towards the refrigerator. She scanned through it, and absentmindedly drank from a half-empty carton of milk, contently sighing as the liquid seemed to satisfy her need for food. Lydia's eyes never left her, she even narrowed her eyes with anger at her sister's behavior but Riley was less than worry. She wasn't going to be the boss of her now.
"Why are you here, Riley? Why didn't you just stayed where you were?"
"Wouldn't you like that, would you?"
"I would love to, actually. Those years with you gone had been the greatest. You have no idea how freaking happy we were" Lydia said.
For a moment Riley felt hurt, but not because of her words, no. She imagined her mother must have felt as happy as Lydia was, doing all the things she couldn't do together. But when her memories hit her again, of who was the reason for her leaving her pain vanished. They were the ones to blame; her mother and Lydia. If it wasn't for all what they've done, she could have grown to be happy. Instead, they destroyed her and made her who she was now; unbreakable.
"Nothing lasts forever, dear Sis. Your nightmare is back for good, you might as well get used to it" Riley said and ended her speech with a wide smile. Something that got Lydia angrier than before.
"Don't get so comfortable. I still got the power to kick you out" Lydia responded
"Yeah, I wanna see you try," Riley said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to my room. I'll see you in the morning, roomier"
She walked passed her, grabbed her luggage and claimed the stairs to her ROM. Lydia cursing as loud as she could for Riley to hear.
Apparently, her nightmare had just begun.
Back in the day, Riley was not a morning person. She used to stay in bed for hours, sleep till noon even. But things radically changed when she met Santino. He taught her something she had never considered herself, made her life a bit better too, and suddenly she rose from her bed as soon as she opened her eyes, got her yoga mattress and begun the exercise they had once done together. Something unthinkable for the old Riley. He had told her it was good for her body and soul. She had believed him. She believed everything he said to her like it was sacred. He taught her to be strong and confident, to make other respect her for who she was and was she was. He had made a different Riley out of her. Something that she treasured dearly.
When her daily exercises were over and the sweat was the only thing remaining, Riley walked downstairs. Lydia had already prepared breakfast, only for herself obviously, and had showered to start her workday. She swayed across the room, towards the food cabinet, poured herself cereals with milk a cup of coffee. Lydia remained just a few feet from her, in silent, though by the looks she was mentally judging Riley's every move.
"If you think I'm gonna feed you while you're here, then you're wrong. I'm not your mother, you're not a child. Everything in here is mine, you wanna eat then buy your own shit" Lydia snapped
"Don't you a place to be? People to bother? Haven't you be en called to the hospital as the angel of death already?" Riley told her, chewing her whole spoon of cereal why she waited for her sister's come back.
"How do you know I work at the hospital?" Lydia asked. Riley wasn't about to tell her Tony, one of her men, had tracked her, found her at a local hospital. She was also not going to tell her she knew everything she had done for the last year.
"I saw the uniform. You have it in your room for the whole world to see" Riley lied
"What were you doing in my room?"
"Oh my God, are you gonna question everything I do? If you don't want me near my your stuff, then you might as well lock your damn door. This is a free country and I'm a curious person"
"Curiosity killed the cat, you know?"
"But satisfaction bought him back" Riley finished with a satisfied grin.
"Get a job, Riley. I won't have you here for free" Lydia replied, quickly grabbing her prise and her belongings before walking through the door.
Riley could absolutely get a job, there were a lot of things she could do; she had worked waitressing, doing dishes and cleaning tables before luck stroke her and she was offered something better to do. Though 'better' was not a word to describe it. The question wasn't exactly what she could do, the question was where.
Sure she knew her town, but a lot of things might have changed that didn't know about. After all, 5 years was a long time. Still, a job didn't sound like a bad idea, not that she needed the money (she had a lot, though she couldn't tell Lydia about it) but it could work as a distraction.
Preparing herself to go out and about around Linhill for the first time was a fairly easy task to do. She wasn't fond of makeup or fancy clothes, all she needed was her jeans, sweaters and black combat boots to be ready to go. She wasn't certain a job would fall into her hands that day, but at least she could try.
The first place Riley went to was the old ice cream shop. She used to love walking around and get a free cone from Mrs. Eli. Now the place was much more different than she remembered, the owner was younger too and she later found out Mrs. Eli had died a year after Riley had left, which was a pity. She was a nice and kind woman.
So, no luck finding a job there.
The second place was Miss Vicky's restaurant. Riley remembered they served the best hamburgers in town. Along with a killer chocolate cake. Miss Vicky's was still pretty much alive, but there was practically nothing of the old place she used to know; now the whole place had been turned into a Chinese restaurant due to Vicky's sudden marriage to Chuan a Chinese chef.
No luck there either.
The third and last place was Mr. Eaton's bar. It was unknown to Riley for when she left there was a library there. The place looked dark and it and strangely gave Riley a sense of home, for some twisted reason. It was like a bar Santino used to take her, to then disappear five minutes with his minions and then come back in with an innocent grin. She never questioned at first, he minds his own business, but without asking later Riley understood what the whole mystery was a about. Incidental a cheeky, bubbly young girl welcomed her with a wide grin. Her cheerful personality made a contrast with the darkness, contaminated environment inside. The smell of alcohol present everywhere, if she were the old Riley she would have run away with dizziness, but after years of being around the same smell, it felt like it was part of her.
"What can I get you, ma'am?" the girl asked. Riley was a little bit taken aback by the word usage, but not entirely since she was obviously a bit older than her who barely looked 19.
"Give me a-beer. The best one you've got" Riley replied. The girl frowned, a reproachable stare directed to her.
"Isn't a bit early for a lady to start drinking? It's barely 10 am"
"I could tell you exactly the same thing about a bar being opened in the middle of a work day" Riley replied. The girl just shrugged, turned around towards the sea of bottles behind her and handled Riley a beer. "Beats me, I only work here"
Suddenly a loud crash interrupted them. Both women turned around towards the noise; in the far back, a group of men laughed, loudly, liquid poured from the table, a girl not older than the one in front of her, grabbed the broken glasses spread on the floor, with her bare hands and shaking. Once she finished she crossed the room, towards the bar, wiping away tears falling down her rosy cheeks.
"Are you okay?" the girl behind the bar asked her. The other peeked over her shoulder, men still laughing and shook her head softly
"He grabbed my butt" the girl replied with a trembling voice. "The bottle fell from my hands when I complained they started to laugh…one of them used the 'b' word"
Riley looked at the men again. They were all old, probably around 40, looked like the type of mane who would spend every minute of their time getting drunk with cheap alcohol, playing cards and telling dirty jokes. The kind of men Riley hated. She had seen too many, heard the word the scary girl described enough to know they turned to its usage when they didn't get what they wanted.
"Who was it?" Riley asked her. She turned around towards them briefly and pointed to the one sitting at the corner, wiping the excessive liqueur from his lips with his hand. She got up slowly from her seat, the girl completely terrified at her actions stopped her with a grab of her hand
"What are you doing?"
"I'll just have a small chat with him, don't worry" Riley replied with a calm voice although she was already burning inside with anger.
"You can't mess with them, you don't know who they are-" the girl said
"They're just men. Plain and simple"
"Listen, this is my fault-"
"Never blame yourself for asking for respect. You're not a toy for them to grab if they don't understand what it means then I'll tell them" Riley replied, pulling her away from the girl.
She walked towards the table with a determined confident pace. She didn't hesitate, not even for a second when the men all fell silent at her arrival. The air around them expelled alcohol. It was hard to concentrate without her brain, the rational part, screamed to walk away, that it wasn't her business, that the girl could have called the police or defend herself. But clearly, she wasn't listening.
"Yes honey, can we do something for you?" a man slurred. The other four listened, waiting for her response as if she was going to be receptive of his lame attempt at flirting.
"Hi, there seemed to be a tiny bit of a problem with my friend back there and I thought that, of course, an apology would be needed," Riley said with the calmest fakest polite voice she could muster. She was just waiting for their reaction and if she could guess correctly would be the wrong one.
"Yeah, there was a problem. That bitch over there didn't want to serve us right. We are paying to be treated like we want, right boys?" the man asked his friends who yelled 'yes!' in response
"Didn't she give you the drinks right? Was it another beverage that you wanted?" Riley asked.
"No, no we're cool" the man replied and took the time to eye Riley from head to toe, in a way she felt disgusted with herself. He looked like a dog in front of a piece of meat "We just wanted some sugar, you know what I mean, darling?"
Next thing he did was exactly what Riley had predicted; his big hand grabbed her left butt cheek and squeezed it so hard it sends Riley forward against the table. His friends laughed, just like they had done before, this time claps were added into the mix
Riley took a deep breath, closed her eyes briefly and pulled herself backward. The man licked his lips hungrily and she felt like a fire built inside her chest. With the same strength, Santino had once taught her. In a moment of impulse, she grabbed an empty bottle of beer, slammed against the man's head as hard as she could, the impact made him fall off the chair. The others got up at unison and were ready to attack her. It might have been her cue to walk away but she had too much adrenaline pumping to stop herself from making the next move; the rest of the broken bottle in her hand turned into an effective weapon, providing cuts in the men's cheeks, hands, and arms.
The noise that the fight had made, called for more people; someone Riley hadn't seen when she entered was holding her still. The two men who were still standing, but barely, looked hurt and by the looks of it ashamed to be attacked by a female.
"There are no fights allowed in my bar" the man holding her said. Riley struggled but the adrenaline was slowly washing away and she suddenly felt too tired to fight back
"There shouldn't be pigs allowed either," Riley said.
"She attacked us!" a man shouted
"Because you grabbed my ass, you dick!" Riley snapped back.
"Alright, that's it! Out of my bar. Now!" the owner screamed. The dirty man gave a nasty look before walking towards the door, followed by his crew. "As for you-"
"Listen, I'm not here to pick a fight with anyone, but I won't let someone disrespect me, or any girl around," Riley said.
"Those were my best clients" the owner complained
"And if you wanna have more, and respectful ones, I'd be careful who I let in"
"Are you telling me how to run my business?"
"No, I'm educating you" Riley replied.
"Well, why don't you educate someone who asks you to? Now get the hell out of my bar"
Riley looked at him and shook her head. While she made her way towards the door both girls made brief eye contact with her; one of them smiled gratefully and politely while the other whispered an 'I'm sorry' with an apologetic look.
Before she disappeared behind the door she took one last glance at the place. She could now erase that from her list of potential jobs, for good.