Her head was throbbing with pain.She felt powerless.Trying to shift around in her position, Stella laid there unconscious.She slowly started to open her eyes but immediately covered them with her hand as the moon-light from the opposite window was falling directly on her.After a few moments of lying still and thoughtless, she again tried to get up.It was like a war but she managed a victory.She crawled to the nearest wall and laid her back against it.
The hit was bad. She gently examined her forehead to find out if she was bleeding. She was!
“Oh god! The cut has to go before John sees it. It would concern him.”
As she stood up slowly and started to walk she immediately remembered –THE CONSIGNMENT.
She rushed back to the hall, the package was gone! The turn of events gave birth to a lot of questions. Who was that man? How did he get inside? Did the consignment belong to him? Was he here to take it back? This entire confusion was making her head hurt even more.
“Okay! I think I need some fresh air and I would need some bandage for my cut.”
She locked the house, checking all the doors and windows once again and then went outside to explore her hometown. Stepping outside sent the memory trail running again. Although a lot had changed in her town, things were still the same enough to allow her to dive deep in nostalgia.
Walking down the road, her eyes stumbled across the town park. She stopped-by to take a closer look. Somehow, nothing was changed in the past seven years. Same benches, same lighting, everything was the same.
“Are you sure?”, said Alex with a worried look.
” Yes!”, affirmed Stella in the rudest tone possible.
“Why don’t you understand Stella, your parents are not selfish, they……they are just emotional about you.”
“You don’t understand Alex. It is suffocating and I cannot take it anymore. I have a life, a dream. I want to build a grand career.”
” Do it, for sure, but you can’t just abandon your parents like that! You are their only child. Talk to them, convince them, take them along. Don’t just run away like that!”
“Stop being an emotional fool, Alex.”
“You are a fool!”, said Alex grabbing Stella by her shoulders.
She pushed him away aggressively and ran away. Needless to say, even after seven years, Stella still regrets that conversation with her best friend. She never ever talked to Alex again. That was the last time. Alex was her childhood friend. They knew each other even before they could speak. It was a very special bond.
Thinking about it now, standing right at the place where it happened, filled Stella with guilt all over again. Alex was correct all along. Stella gave out a deep sigh.
” Still thinking about it?”
She abruptly turned around to find a tall, pale and dark-eyed man standing to her right. It took her a few seconds to recognize him. It was Alex!
Curly hair, pleasant smile and an accent that still flaunted his Italian roots. She immediately broke into a smile but it soon turned into a hesitant and faint one. He sensed the hesitation.
“Don’t worry! I am not mad. Sorry to surprise you like that.”
“No! That’s fine. I am glad that we met again.”
“In town to sell the house?”
“Yes. How come you know?”
He stopped for a second with a confusing frown and then continued, ” The lawyer that you are dealing with is a close friend and by the way, your house is quite an anecdote in the town.”
Stella gave a nod.
“What is that cut on your forehead?”
“Oh! I fell down. I was going to the medical store to purchase some bandage.” Stella smiled as she said that, trying hard to conceal her lie. She definitely did not want to worry Alex just a few moments after their reunion.
“Strange! I was also going to the medical store. Let us go together then…..that is…..if you would like?”
“Yeah, sure! Why not?”
The first few seconds of the walk were silent. Then, to break the ice, Stella started talking about the weather.
” It is quite cold, right!”
” Yeah.” He gave an awkward and uninterested reply.
The silence gave Stella a few moments to analyze everything that took place. There could have been no way that Alex was just casually there at the town park. It was opposite to the way to the medical store from his house. And also, that confusing look on Alex’s face when Stella asked her that how did he know about the deal! It all screamed out loud that something was fishy. She was not exactly suspecting him to be the man in the house but there is some link between him and that man.
Busy thinking, Stella did not even realize that they had already reached the medical store. They both went inside, still silent. Purchased the supplies and exited the store.
When they stepped out, Stella abruptly stopped Alex.
“What is wrong with my house?”
” W…..what……N….nothing.” He stammered, adding fuel to Stella’s hunch.
Now she looked him straight into the eye. “Alex, you need to tell me. The consignment, that man…… What is wrong?”
” I don’t know anything Stella. Why would you even expect me to know?”
” Don’t tell me, Alex, that you knew about the deal just because your lawyer friend told you. There is no person other than you who could have had the key to the house. I checked, there were no break-ins.”
” You are still the over-thinker that you have always been. You…..”
” Maybe any of your relatives kept it there. It has been seven years Stella, maybe it was always there and you forgot. You are a journalist, I know, but I don’t think that you should try to find a story in every single part of your life!”
” Alex you….”, she started angrily only to be interrupted by Alex.
” Oh come on Stella! What is wrong with you? We have met after so many years! Let me walk you back to your house and answer all your questions along the way. Fine?”
He reached out to pull a paper out of his pocket. As they turned around, a man came and gave Alex a tight slap. He snatched the paper from his hand and it got torn into halves. Four more men joined him. They pushed Alex onto the ground and started to beat him.
Stella tried to intervene but was pushed to the ground. Her knee started to bleed. As she raised her eyes, she noticed that one of the shoes had the same eagle mark as the man’s shoe that she saw in her house.
Before she could have looked at his face, they left, leaving Alex behind, bleeding and unconscious.
Time seemed to have stopped around Stella. Panic gripped her. The man from the medical store quickly called the ambulance. Everything seemed less important now. All that mattered was her best friend.
What was the connection between the events in her house and Alex? Who were these people? What did they want? Why did they beat Alex? Find out in the upcoming chapter of “When I walked through….” Follow the blog to receive an e-mail every-time we release a new chapter.