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Holding onto the cool metal bar on the bus I edged forwards in my seat; the bus swerved around the corner and I frantically grabbed my bag and rushed to a standing position. After the first few steps I was launched backwards, the strap of my bag caught around the seat, I watched helplessly through the window as my stop passed by. Tugging recklessly at the strap it eased free and I hurled down the bus as it came to a standstill. Muttering apologies I stepped out into the cool breeze, the night was settling. My breathing increased as I pulled my cardigan around me and I fumbled in my jeans pocket as the bus pulled away. My fingers were shaking as I pulled the phone out. I quickly jabbed the number into the phone and brushed the hair off my face, and as I heard the voicemail I began to run. Did he get to her? All I could do was hope.
It all started months back in art class. There he was sat right by me, his straggly black hair and bright green eyes. His skin was very pale almost grey, and mostly covered by a mop of ark greasy hair. The whole nature of his presence was wolf like and unkempt. He was always fiercely sketching out rough black charcoal drawings, staring deep into the paper, his fingers fidgeting under the desk. Sometimes he’d grunt if I asked him a question, sometimes he wouldn’t even respond.
I was round at Meg’s. We were having a messy day in the kitchen baking brownies. It was a murky day outside; the rain was drizzling down the windows. The kitchen was steamy and the radio was blaring away. I sat down at the kitchen table listening to the radio while Meg finished washing up. Licking my fingers clean, I pulled a trashy magazine off the table and began to skim through. Meg was laughing but she seemed so distant, I concentrated hard on the picture in front of me. “Meg, where did you get this magazine from?”
“Oh that’s just something my Dad picked up for me when he was in America.”
“Right,” I muttered, my attention still fixed on the face in front of me. Meg dashed out of the room, her ginger hair swinging madly behind her. I focused on the article. “Youth from West Virginia involved in a serious of shootings has been named as James Taylor and is at the centre of a nation wide manhunt. Taylor is wanted in connection with terror plots concerning school sieges across the district, which were narrowly prevented in recent months. The public have been warned to be vigilant as Taylor 17 is “ruthless” and should not be approached.” I reread the article over and over. Staring at the picture my stomach flipped and my fingers went cold. The resemblance was uncanny, but coincidences happen. I quietly stood up and walked towards the door.
“Meg?” I chocked out the words in a faint whisper, looking up towards the landing. Upstairs Megan was running around, she frantically leant over the banister. “Just a minute!” she cried.
“Go on, just say hey or something I don’t know, honestly babe it’s not gonna be him.” I looked from him to my best friend. She pushed me forwards slightly nodding eagerly and I rolled my eyes at her. He was stood outside the art block, shoulders hunched over, and a cigarette hanging limply between his fingers. Turning my back on Meg I walked slowly towards him, the gravel crunching under my converse. Meg was right, of course she was I was being ridiculous. As I went to turn back again I caught site of his profile. I gasped quietly and Meg came running over, “It’s him it really is.” I muttered stunned. She took hold of me by the shoulders and steadied me peering around my back to get a glimpse; he was no more than a few paces away. The look of fear in my eyes mirrored her expression.
The boy looked up his hair drooping over his face, his forehead creasing slightly as he stared intently at the pair of us. His eyes seemed lifeless and still as he raised his chin a little. Standing up to full height he breathed in slow and still. “Just walk away,” Megan said calmly, grabbing me by the arm in a vice like grip as the two of us staggered behind the building. “Are you positively sure it’s him?” she asked wiping a section of ginger hair behind her ear and looking coolly into my eyes. “Yes,” I whispered, “definitely.”
“Ok, well let’s be level-headed about this right? We’ll just walk back up to the office and…” As the two of us turned around; there he stood, arm leaning against the wall a fierce smug grin stretched across his dirty face. His hair was brushed back; his grimy teeth, thick with black protruded over his bottom lip and his eyes had a menacing glare to them. His full height was impressive; my breathing quickened and my pulse raced as I garbled a series of quiet murmurs. I was never good under pressure.
“Erm, excuse me please!” Megan exclaimed sternly as she took the long way around his side attempting to pass him, still clutching hold of my shirt sleeve. He laughed low and hard, raising his arm up to Megan’s shoulder stopping her from advancing any further. Megan drew breath ready to let out a scream, when he slowly placed a hand over her mouth and held a knife at her neck. I turned around, looking back over my shoulder for anyone to see, there was no one. He grabbed hold of both of my wrists in one hand; his huge grasp tightening, my palms digging into the other. Silently I followed his lead as he kept Megan in a headlock grip, knife still pointed at her neck. He led us down the path towards the woods which led on from the art block. The wind began to pick up; my head was banging as I kept my focus on the stony path beneath me feet trying helplessly to think of a way out.
I glanced over at Megan her eyes alive with fear, her head and neck kept stiffly upright, eyes looking down towards the knife which was edging closer to her skin
I gave her quick small nod, she didn’t reply. Without thinking I turned sharply and kicked him hard between the legs, he shouted and fell to his knees dropping the knife inches away, I kicked again and again, his eyes tightened, his teeth bearing. He yelled and tried to grasp at my leg. Meg quickly picked up the knife and screamed, “Run!” I kicked again one more time as hard as I possibly could. Meg was already darting through the trees her wild red hair tumbling down her back, she kept turning round looking towards me, “Come on!” she yelled. Her expression was manic. My breath quickened and my head was screaming. It was hard placing one foot in front of the other, my co-ordination completely failed me. I carried on running in no certain direction just away. I caught up with Meg her eyes wild with fear; we carried on running together in silence just the crunching of leaves beneath our feet and the heavy panting of breath. We ran solidly without turning back. My sides were searing with pain and my heart was throbbing in my ribs.
After what seemed like hours she began to stop and leant against a tree, her tiny frame panting furiously, eyes closed and head down she grasped hold of the trunk. We had reached a clearing and it opened out onto a familiar park; it was teeming with children screaming and yelling and milling around like little ants. The busy afternoon seemed calm in spite of the squealing children and it was surprisingly relaxing. We both gave each other an awkward smile and allowed our breathing to even out.
As I parted from Megan and made my way home I couldn’t help feeling nervous and unsettled. We stayed huddled at the park for some time, running over events, sitting in silence, and then running over them again. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I leant back and dug them deep into the grass and rubbed the stems between my fingers to calm myself.
It was a fairly short walk to my house and Megan took the bus. I turned the key in the lock. “Oh darling, how was school? You’re a bit out of breath aren’t you? You look a wreck.”
“Yes,” I replied quietly wondering how I was going to explain this to my mum.
“Oh! Well you just missed a friend of yours, what was his name now?”
“A friend?” I replied stunned. The only friend who ever came around was Megan.
“Yes, oh I wrote it down somewhere, ah yes here it is love, you know what my memory is like these days let me just put my glasses on, oh here look James Taylor. Do you know him? Never heard you mention a James before. But Taylor that does ring a bell, I wonder, yes I think your dad’s secretary, is he a Taylor? Maybe, anyway love…” My pulse pounded in my head, it was him, and how did he know I lived here? I felt physically sick.
“Sorry Mum!” I yelled as I pulled open the door. “Call the cops; tell them it’s James Taylor he’s here after me and Meg!” My Mum yelled at me, “Beth get back here right now! What’s going on! I ran out of the door up the path and away. My feet hit hard against the pavement, my pulse racing I needed to get to Meg. Mum said he left just before me. My stomach churned as I hurled down the road; in the distance I saw the bus pulling up, waving my arms frantically I jumped on. Meg’s phone was ringing endlessly maybe the signal was no good here, Meg always picked up her phone. Meg’s stop was only minutes away would I get there in time?