Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Anna and Cassandra

"I had a really good time mummy, we all learned how to sing "The Wheels on the Bus".

Cassandra was nattering as normal, the way she always did after playschool. Anna was happy that her daughter was in such a chirpy mood. Last few sessions she'd been a bit grizzly when she picked her up. The teachers had put forward the idea that she was having a good time and Anna had to concur. She'd hated going home when she was a little girl but it was for different reasons.

Cassandra held up the piece of paper covered in paint. "I made this too mummy" she said proudly, then paused looking up expectantly.

"Very nice my darling, is it a car?"

Cassandra looked cross and tutted. "No silly, it's you mummy!"

Anna laughed and ruffled her daughter's hair. "I know sweetie, I'm just playing."

Cassandra giggled as they reached the car. Anna held her daughter's hand tightly as they crossed the road to where she'd left the vehicle. Anna didn't like parking in the cul-de-sac but the road near the school had been full as always. She handed the keys down. "OK Madame, do your magic."

Cassandra giggled again and with some concentration used her tiny fingers to activate the door locks. She smiled approvingly as the indicator lights flashed and the car beeped.

"Good girl, now let's get you strapped in." Anna opened the door and pulled the harness open on the child seat in the back, removing a half squashed Ribena carton from the cushion. She lifted Cassandra up gently and put her down, strapping her in and checking the belt was secure.

As she closed the door and went to step to the driver's side she felt a hand on her shoulder and a rasping voice went "Don't move, I'll cut you!"

Anna's breath caught in her throat. Her body tensed and she glanced down as a sharp pressure was in her right side, just below her ribs. The man behind her pushed her up against the side of the car, holding the back of her head with one hand. He hissed to someone else, "Quick, go on."

Anna twisted her head to look as a scruffy man with too much stubble and an old torn jacket yanked the door open where Cassandra was sitting.

"Mummy, what's going on?" her daughter shouted out, her eyes going wide.

"It's OK baby, just be quiet please."

The hand on her head was holding her tightly, she struggled to control her breathing. She could still feel the pressure in her side. The other man grabbed her handbag and leaned in over Cassandra, checking the footwells and the seats. Cassandra started to cry. "Mummy!" She looked terrified. Anna could smell both of them. They reeked of body odour and too much booze. And something else...something rotten. Trying to control her breathing and remain calm she said in as controlled a voice as she could manage.

"Take what you want, just don't hurt my daughter please."

The man behind her hissed back "I said shut up and be quiet you fucking whore."

"That's it" the second man said.

"Check the front. Quick before someone comes."

The man moved round the passenger side of the car, checking around him in case anyone could see them. Cassandra was crying louder. As the man yanked open the opposite side door and began to rummage through the glovebox the voice behind her said "That watch you're wearing, take it off and give it me."

Anna trembled with fear but managed to stay steady on her feet. The pressure on her head released slightly and she reached over to unfasten the strap on her watch. She handed it back over her shoulder. "Nice" the voice whispered, then said to the other man "Come on!"

"Done, nothing else."

"You've been really good, thanks. You might want to teach your little bitch to be quiet. Hopefully we'll see you again."

As he spoke his other hand moved down and squeezed Anna's breast and he laughed. Time froze. The roughness of his fingers. The sound of Cassandra crying. The other man moving back around to join his friend. The street light fifty yards away casting a spattery reflection on the car's wet black roof. But above all Anna remembered her father, wanting to "play" with his daughter when he came home drunk and Anna's mother could do nothing to stop him.

With a snarl she whirled against the pressure in her right side, her forearm smashing into the man's wrist. He yelped in pain and his knife went skittering across the tarmac. Before he could react Anna grabbed his head with both hands and pulled down hard, bringing her knee up into his face, once, twice, three times. His nose shattered and blood sprayed. With a gurgle he fell forward and then rolled onto his side. Anna stamped down on his crotch with her heel twice, hard.

In the five seconds this had taken the other man had iced up. He stared at them both. Cassandra was still wailing loudly. "What the....?!!" he mouthed, clutching Anna's bag. She turned to face him and he gulped.

"Now look lady, I don't want any trouble." Anna advanced on him, stepping over the twitching, bloodied man at her feet. "Stay back, look I'm sorry." He dropped the handbag in the road and tried to turn but Anna grabbed his shoulders and span him around, slamming him into the car. He screeched as Anna kicked him hard in the knee, his leg buckling. She rained her fists down on his head, once, twice, three times until he collapsed in the road.

Breathing heavily she looked around. Left, right, behind her. Standing twenty yards away was another woman, older, her mouth open. After a long moment she stammered, " you need any help my dear?"

Anna gasped and cleared her throat.

"Call the police and an ambulance. Do it now." The woman nodded and reached for her mobile, staring in horror at Anna and the two men.

 She opened the back door and leaned in. Cassandra was screaming her head off.

"Shhh, baby it's alright." She unclipped the safety harness and pulled her daughter clear, stepping  away from the unconscious man laying at her feet.

Cassandra stopped screaming but was still sobbing as Anna hugged her into her shoulder. "It's alright baby, shhhh, it's alright."

After a couple of minutes Cassandra's sobs began to quieten.

In the distance they could hear sirens.

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