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July 16th, 2017
The crowd of people around Dion jeered and laughed. They pumped their fists and drank from red cups and bottles that fell into lakes of broken glass. Dion watched a man come from this crowd, shirt removed. He was not thin nor strong, but very tall and very drunk. The man looked at him, tightened the sinews of his and pointed his fists before he tried to punch. He was pushed forward. Then he found stride. He ran. With all leverage on his arm, he aimed for Dion’s face.
Dion stepped to the side and kneed him. He dropped almost instantly. The crowd was silent for a moment, wondering. Most were disappointed. Some even booed. But the man stood again and held at his abdomen and breathed with a voracious appetite as all the contents of his lungs had been taken from him. He was not as forward anymore. He put his shoulder towards Dion, raised both hands to block punches that didn’t come. And with cleverness (or what drunks think is clever), he slipped his hand into his pocket for a knife. He ran with it. Knife out.
Dion kicked the drunk’s leg. He limped.
The drunk tried again.
He got another kick. And everyone was beginning to sorry for the knife holder. But alcohol is a powerful agent, almost as good as courage. Maybe even better. Because the man felt neither the pain of his broken ankle nor the shame of everyone looking down at him.
So what did he do? What all stupid people do, get louder and tougher and try harder when they know they’re losing. So he huffed. He puffed. He leaped for Dion.
Dion slapped him. It looked like one, but pushed his skin so far back and cracked his jaw so hard, that it might have been confused for a sledgehammer.
This was a man that hunted demons for a living, with the strength of a superhero, who was commissioned to beat drunks in alleyways. Dion felt embarrassed.
The drunk tried to stand with one hand. His lip burst open, blood flooded down his chin.
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“Are you alright?” Dion knelt down to him.
It was like fuel to his violent heart. What he assumed to be Dion’s patronization. Fuel. Shame. Anger. The blood from his lip kept pumping, he looked up to Dion. He could not leave it like this, even if he lost.
He gripped his knife and pushed it up. Screaming. Hysterical, almost. The drunk’s eyes, bloodshot and yellow hued. Dion felt the knife, felt his flesh and meat move-aside for the metal insert in his abdomen. They all stared. It was a scene so shocking that it seemed like an accident, that the drunk hadn’t been involved at all. He was so mortified, in fact, that he ran away. On his knees and on the broken glass, he slunk into the crowd who now stared shocked and awed.
“I messed up,” Dion stood. “Sorry for scaring all of you.” He hung his head low and walked through the crowd, the blade handle still in his stomach.
“I’m a doctor, let me help.” A woman said and rushed to Dion. He would not give her his hand and nearly ran from her, would have run, had he not bumped into someone and stabbed the knife further into him. Blood was starting to leek and soaked his white shirt.
“Oh boy,” Dion said. The people stared neither jovial or excited. They just watched, like zoo tourists. He wanted to push them all. He felt palpitations.
“It’s okay,” Dion said.
“You need a hospital man,” Someone said.
“No, it really doesn’t hurt.” He lifted the knife out. People put their hands over their mouths as the blood flooded out. Dion smiled, it was supposed to be reassuring but as he looked around, understood how it might have been confused for insanity.
Whatever. They were shocked enough to make way for him as he walked past the group. The track of blood behind him.
He was heading in the direction of the reason that this all happened in the first place.
How did this happen?
For a woman, of course. A brunette. Cute, too.
He stopped in front of her, she was midway a small tunnel that connected the alley to the club.
“Thank you.” The young woman said from within. “Thank you so much.”
Her brother or… whatever he was, was sitting with bruises in his face.
Yeah. It wasn’t Dion who started the fight, it was just him who finished it. It was over something stupid, too. You see, the brother (please, let it be just a brother) had picked up the wrong drink, had gotten hot headed over being accused of stealing a drink and decided to pick up the wrong fight. After all, how long does it take for men to find a stupid reason to kill each other?
And it was within that crowd, that Dion had stepped forward to defend the man who was getting bullied. So that’s where he was now, that’s how this all happened. That’s why he had a wound in his stomach.
“You didn’t have to do that.” She said, her eyes focused on his bloody stomach. “Jesus Christ,”
“I did have to do it,” Dion wiped blood off his face. “I don’t like bullies,”
“Let me see.” The brunette touched his abdomen. It was wet. “There’s no cut, though,”
She looked up confused.
“It’s alright, see?” Dion said.
“What?” She looked back and stepped over her unconscious brothers( brother, right?) shoes.
“Is he fine?”
“My fiancé?” She said. “Oh, yeah,”
Oh? Her fiancé. Oh. His smiled died a little.
“Let me pay for your hospital bill at least.” She said.
“It’s fine, I swear. There’s no injury,” He strained his face to be neutral, to not be anything but disappointed. But in his guts and his pockets he could feel it, the knotting feeling of frustration. He thought – about this brunette of whom he did not even know the name – that he no right to believe he was deserving of anything. And he thought, shamefully, that he had no right to think defending her (…and her fiancé) should demand worship. His face lowered from the shame, disappointment, frustration. Most of it self imposed, like self-flagellation. But more she kept pulling at his arm and thanking him. And more he felt terrible, head drooping. He was lost and felt the urge to run away. Run away, far.
She was the first girl since being out (of the Vatican, that prison)and he couldn’t help but feel a little…infatuated. He was aware of it. Of course! But…he wanted to say something at least. Even if it was a lost cause. He should at least be forward, say something…nice.
Like…you’re welcome, cutie. Or. Or! ‘I just don’t help any beautiful girl, you know.’
He closed his eyes. The knots in his stomach tightened.
She’s getting married.
He had to remind himself. But between the feelings and the high, he felt compelled at least to say something small. Just…some cool sounding thing.
I want to run away, so badly.
How could he though? Even the drunk had put up a fight.
Dion opened his mouth.
“I just want to say-”
“What the f**k is this?” A familiar voice said.
Dion heard from it from a distance. He saw Apollo and the cell phone on his ears, and he saw him coming up to him with his angry, full stride, and Dion felt relief. He was salvaged. Like a shipwrecked straggler crashing against the shoreline, with all the mirth and shackles of seaweed behind him.
“What the f**k did you do?” Apollo asked. Dion sighed. He felt the air clear up.
“These guys were picking on her fiancé. I stopped them.” He said. The woman looked at the two.
“Do you want a prize for beating up drunk people? Next, you’ll tell me is that you’re top honors in the special class,” Apollo said. “I’ve been calling you for twenty f*****g minutes. Do you understand? Twenty minutes.”
“I was inside most of the time, why didn’t you just look around? I was by the bar.” He said.
“That’s the point. We can’t stay here. Got it? Next time, answer my phone.” He said.
“You should answer your phone,” Dion said.
“Don’t get smart with me, asshole,”
“No, he means, your phone is ringing.” The woman interrupted. Apollo shot a glare at her and felt his pocket. He looked at the screen and grunted like a savage caveman, lost to time, lost to place. His brows scrunched on his nose bridge, and he pouted as he answered. And all the while, the shadows collected on Apollo’s face as desperate words spoke through the phone. There was trouble.
But Dion didn’t care. Neither did the woman. Apollo walked away for a bit.
The woman tugged at Dion.
“If he hadn’t started the fight,” She looked the broken man on the floor. “If he just relaxed after the first few drinks, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt. I just can’t let this go, I know you’re not fine.”
“No, no, I swear. Promise,” He smiled. It was crooked. He felt nervous that it was crooked.
“I don’t like being talked down to. This isn’t a joke. I feel guilty, and I want to help you however I can.” She began working her purse.
“Believe me, lady. I’m fine.”
It didn’t stop her hands. She got a pen and wrote something down on a slip.
“If you need some money. Maybe a place to stay, any help, give me a call. I don’t like owing people debts, I don’t like owing anyone anything.” She handed the paper to him.
It felt like a trophy, though it was just a slip. He wanted to shout. All feelings escaped him, his limbs went numb.
It felt like fighting against his body, fighting his grin back, fighting his legs from jumping. He shook his head and looked back down at the fiancé. It reminded him to kill his smile. Dion coughed.
“I’m sure we’ll work something out,” He said. That was cool, right? Or creepy? He felt sweaty again.
“Right,” She smiled at him.
It must have been good enough for the moment at least. For them to stare at each other for a moment. To be suspended in time and, almost frozen in the joy of the atmosphere.
She leaned in to shake his hand. But they felt it, the brooding face of Apollo. Felt it like a f*****g sledgehammer slamming down the top of their heads.
“We’re leaving. Right, the f**k now.” Apollo said. Sirens passed them, the red and blue flashed within the alley. They zoomed by, the noise morphed like the wailing cry of a ghost.
“Really? Now?” Dion said.
“Yes,” Apollo stepped into his private space, inches away from his face. “Right now.”
He did not even protest. They both started walking off, Dion turned for a moment.
“What’s your name?” He asked.
“Ophelia.” She said. Ophelia, he repeated, every vowel of the word feeding the fire in his chest. Ophelia.