Chapter 6 by Daisy Ballard
Tara tried to lift her woozy head but it was as heavy as iron, her limbs felt like they were slowly being dipped in molten lava; the pain was excruciating. Through the haze of drugs something registered in her brain, she was tied up. The dizziness and pain seemed to dissipate for a moment as her general horror condensed into the pure fear of being confined. She struggled against the ropes for a second before the torment to her limbs came back and she could hardly bring herself to twitch a finger. Closing her eyes, Tara strained her mind back to the vague recollection she had before her blackout. It was tough, her thoughts were sluggish. All she remembered was the stab of a needlepoint in her arm and some guy. What was his name? Kim? Kevin? Ugh she didn’t know. There was someone else there too. She was sure of that. But her mind was sinking, losing its grasp on the present already. Then there was someone's face, it swam into view right before her eyes. Adi! Tara let out a groan - all her body would allow and a final thought before she sank back into unconsciousness. How could her friend do this to her?
A few hours later, Tara opened her eyes again. She felt strangely light, like a ten-tonne weight had been lifted off her. The ropes had seemingly vanished and her thoughts were as clear as the sea in the Mediterranean where she’d once been on holiday. Aside from the burns that the ropes had left, the pain in her arms had gone and in fact, if it had not been for the stark, white lighting and the uncomfortable cold of the metal table she was sitting on, she might’ve thought it had all been a dream. But she knew better. Tara had still not forgotten feeling like she was literally made of fire. It was kind of hard to forget. What was harder was knowing her best friend was stuck inside with those two men. Tara’s thoughts wandered to Nadia for a moment. They’d been best friends since high school but lately she felt like something different was happening between them, at least Tara’s end anyways. It was just - every time she looked her in the eye, something stirred in Tara’s gut that she couldn’t quite explain. She had to get Nadia out of there. The door was locked - of course, but Tara couldn’t give up at the smallest hurdle. There was no denying that she was smart. With her straight blonde hair and startling blue eyes, she fooled everyone into thinking she was a walking ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype but anyone who bothered to get to know her knew otherwise. A million ideas began running through her head, each more unlikely than the last. If she was strong she could break the door down, or attack someone if they came through the door. But she’d never seen the point in acquiring any physical strength, let alone learning to throw a punch, besides it might be days before someone came through the door and by then Adi would’ve had the time to seriously injure Nadia.
Desperately Tara looked around the room for something that might be able to help her escape. Her eyes landed on the fire extinguisher. That could work she thought to herself. Pulling it from the wall, she raised it above her head, poised to smash down that damn door. With all the strength that she could muster, Tara rammed the fire extinguisher against the door, it rattled but didn’t budge. Arms sore from holding it above her head, Tara leaned against the wall, breathing heavily and braced herself to do it again. The second time the wood splintered and the door slammed open with an almighty crash! Not wasting any time, Tara ran out of what appeared to be a storage room and quickly realised she was still in Nadia’s apartment block. But that meant… Adi! Adrenaline kicked in and Tara made a break for the stairs. As she reached the door to the stairwell, she heard his familiar voice shout out behind her. How had she never seen this dark side of him before? She’d always thought of him as gentle, he wouldn’t even kill the spiders that appeared in his apartment.
Tara made it out onto the main road, wishing that the streets were full of people, like they used to be before lockdown. Then she would’ve had a chance by slipping into the crowd. Fast-paced footsteps behind her told Tara that Adi hadn’t given up, he was chasing her but she couldn’t get caught, not after being this close to getting away. Tara ran until the stitch needling itself into her side got so painful she collapsed on the floor, her back slumped against an old phone box. Tears were running down her face, she was exhausted, frightened, and worst of all... completely alone, without the comfort of home. Unable to go back with Adi looking for her. And what about Nadia? Was she all right? Had Adi hurt her? Suddenly, out of the silence came a ringing sound. It was the old phone box, that was weird, Tara thought, nobody used them anymore. Curiosity won over her trepidation and she went inside, answering the phone. A stranger's gravelly voice on the other end simply said, “Tara listen, forget social distancing and the virus, there’s more to this than you think. I can save your friend Nadia if you meet me in Byde park at 7:30 tomorrow. This isn’t a prank, you’re in real danger” before hanging up, leaving Tara to contemplate whether she should go or not with the stillness of the night.