Emma gasped once again as she felt the touch on her shoulder, she waited for the introduction from a familiar face who saw her approaching her house, or she waited for the cold hand of a stranger intent on mischief.
It was the latter. There was no friendly face as she turned, just a broad palm that shot to her neck. It took her breathe away and at once she was aware that it threatened to take away so much more. She struggled to see who had hold of her but her face was pushed towards the night sky as he tried to take her bag from her.
“Just let go or I’ll smack you one.” He yelled at her as he continued to tug. He took his hand from the bag and shifted his stance in preparation to hit her, but in the instant as he swung his fist she unleashed her freshly freed bag towards his face. There was a lot of stuff in that bag, which was why Emma was reluctant to see it taken by such a petulant youth, but it also turned it into an affective weapon as he staggered back beneath the force of the unexpected blow.
But that was not the end, as his hand slipped from her neck his other clenched into a fist and found its way through the air and cracked into her jaw with a shudder that sent her reeling off her balance, off the kerb and into the road. Emma saw only white when there should have been just darkness. Slowly the form of her assailant emerged from the haze as he towered over her clutching her bag which she had dispensed with as she fell.
Emma let her head slip back to its resting place on the tarmac, and fear ran through her that the ordeal was not over. He looked down, at her face, at her chest, at her skirt that had ripped and rode up her leg. She cried inside as she encountered her helplessness.
It was the voices, not in her head, but down the street that proved her saviour. As the figures turned to walk towards them he spun and lifted his head as if to run, but before making his escape he kicked Emma in the head so it smashed into the concrete kerb.
They moved from a dawdle to a run, and crouched by her side as he made off into the darkness where the man thought about pursuing and decided instead to stay and help. His wife was already by her side, trying to rouse her from her unconscious state. The delay was interminable. They waited for the ambulance, but it seemed never to arrive, they had found some bandages and a cushion to put beneath her head, requisitioned from the nearby pub.
When the ambulance arrived, the man looked to his wife before informing the paramedics they had no idea who she was, they had been walking past as she was being attacked. They too had seen her dishevelled state and hoped they had arrived in time.
Later when Emma awoke the most urgent question the doctors seemed to want to ask was if she knew who she was. Of course she did, but as she made to speak she realised the pain that shot through her head. “I’m Emma Engle.”
She had nothing. Not a phone, nor a wallet, nor as the severity of her dilemma struck her, did she have her house keys. She was stranded. Told not to try and exert herself for the next week and confine herself to her bed as much as possible she was stuck. There was no way she could get into her house while Kathy was away. Instead when the ambulance took her home she directed them to Sam’s house hoping one of the other apprentices he shared with was home. She made her way to his bedroom and ignoring it’s state she collapsed into the bed.
After an evening of discomfort, a night of agony, a day of dislocation Emma finally found some comfort and even a mild sense of security. She slept through the evening and into the morning, and as she made her way slowly down stairs to the kitchen she was shocked to find Sam at the kitchen table. Everything was too hard so she managed nothing more than an inquisitive “Eh?”
“Er, everything didn’t quite go to plan, and Ed says you’ve had a rough time?” Sam decided to cover the details without asking too much of Emma, “The train I was on going up to Liverpool crashed. I could have carried on anyway but I’d lost all my stuff and I wasn’t really in the mood any more so I came back on the late train yesterday, I’d spent all night at the scene and then all day in hospital and at the police station.
“Are you okay, you don’t have to talk, Ed just said you’d been attacked and in hospital most of yesterday. And with Kathy away had nowhere to stay because you hadn’t got your keys. It was a bit of a shock when I got in about midnight and found you in my bed, the sofa’s not too bad really.” His efforts at light humour were not working.
“I’m not really sure what happened, I was walking home the day before yesterday, it was dark but not really that late and someone grabbed me and tried to take my bag. The hit me round the face, and as some other people turned up he kicked me and legged it. I was out of it for quite a while. Doctors say there’s no permanent damage, I’ll just be soar for a little while, and with short hair for a little while longer.” Emma lifted up her hair gently to reveal a large patch which had been shaved before the sutures went in.
Emma sat in front of the TV absorbing the images as she followed the reports of the investigations beginning into the rail crash. She could not believe that while she was tiring of Ingrid’s company Sam was manning an escape mission from the carnage of a train wreck. She’d managed to steal Sam’s laptop while he was at church to try and reconnect and start piecing her life back together from the contents so brutally stolen from her. When she told Kathy of her little adventure she was most surprised to find that not only was she on the same train that crashed as Sam, and opting for continuing north to her interview or induction whatever it turned out to be, but that they had been together on the train and they’d spoken and slowly realised who the other was. It was from Kathy that Emma gather Sam had been a bit of a hero. Strange then, Emma wondered, that she had heard nothing from Sam of their encounter.