“You guys have a good night,” Anya Raymond said to her students as they left. It had been a good practice. Now she would take a few minutes to herself before she prepared to leave.

She popped in a CD and heard the beginning strains of a good reggaeton fill the dance studio. Anya felt the rhythm of the music pumped through her veins. It was always like this when she danced. The tempo, the instruments, and the sound of the words all combined to become her own personal soundtrack. She had always loved to dance. From the time she was a small child she had known that she had wanted to be a dancer. Her mother and father in the beginning had thought that it would be a useless endeavor to pursue dance as a career.

Over time though she had convinced them that her it was more than just a career but a passion. When she had graduated high school they had allow her to go to college to study dance. Once she had gotten her bachelors she had turned to choreography. She loved to see the expression on people’s face when they saw what she had come up with for the first time. That same love and passion drove her now four years later to work in the dance studio. Her students had left for the night and she was left alone to enjoy a few minutes of her, the music, and the dance.

She let it float to her as she moved, letting all of her cares and worries drift away. She didn’t have to think of tomorrow, of next year, or even five minutes from now. All she had to think about was the dance, the feel of her body, and the happiness that it provided. Though she had some things to be happy about she also has some stress as well. The dance studio would be closing soon.

Though she didn’t want to think about it right at the moment she knew that she would have to face the facts sooner or later. The owner had just found out that she had cancer and the expenses of running the shop, though it brought money, was not enough to defray medical costs. In order to afford everything that was going on she would have to pour resources into her family. Anya understood that. If it were her family she would do the same. Still it would be a sad day six months from now when they would have to say goodbye. She let that fall away as she continued to dance. Each twirl lifted her spirit and each roll brought a smile to her face. Here she had no worries, no thoughts. Here she was free.

Once the song it ended she sighed and walked gracefully over to the banister picked up her towel to mop up the sweat. She then took off her jazz shoes tucked them into her bag and put on a light jacket. She picked up her bag slung over her shoulder before making sure that she had her keys in the pocket. She turned the light off as she walked out the room and locked the main doors behind her. In three weeks her teen class would be performing as she felt like they were pretty close to being ready. Just a few more kinks to work out in their dance would be perfect. The night was a little chilly but she didn’t mind it very much after her vigorous workout. Houston was a city that was teeming with people at eight o’clock at night.

She would be safe enough walking home. In her mind she went to dance steps over and over in her head as she walked home on autopilot. She also something else to be extremely happy about. She had finally gotten that call, the call that every aspiring dancer hoped for. She had found out that in just a weeks time she would have an audition to be a backup dancer behind a pretty affluent artists. If she got that job she might have to make some changes to her position as a choreographer at the dance studio but it would be worth it. She knew the dance studio closing she would have to make some kind of change, that is if she was on trial for her bills. Perhaps in that her parents were partly right. It was hard making a living off of dancing alone. Most answers when they were trying to start out held down two to three jobs just to make ends meet. She was lucky enough to survive on just the one job. She knew that her position was much better than other dancers, but she still was hungry for more. If she got the job as the backup dancer it would mean that she had finally achieved her crowning glory. Then all the hard work that she had done would bear fruit. She just needed things to go her way.

The wind picked up a little bit and she curled her jacket closer to her body. Walking home she knew there was about two blocks where there were a lot fewer people. Those blocks were office buildings with dark alleyways between them before she reached her apartment complex. She had walked nearly to that point without even realizing it. She was damn lucky she didn’t get hit by car on the way. Behind her she heard the echo of shoes hitting the pavement but she ignored it. There were others that could be walking this way just like her to get home. She knew that stop for the Metro bus which is a little ahead of her. She tucked her head down to brace against the wind and kept moving forward. That was until she felt something cold and hard meet the bottom of her spine. Every thing in her froze. She should’ve paid more attention to those footsteps.

“Don’t move,” a low gravelly voice warned behind her. She did as she was told, her heart racing in her chest. It was so loud it sounded like thunder in her head.

Fear was a living, breathing thing inside of her. Only she would be lucky enough to be mugged this early in the evening and no one around to help her. She had been way too lost in her thoughts. She knew better than to do that. Even in a city as safe as the one she lived in things still happened to people. There were desperate people in the world and they didn’t desperate things. She’d just been thinking about dancers that held two and three jobs to make it. Some people chose illegal means to live. She hoped against all hope that she would survive this. The managed her with the gun and she took a couple of steps forward and then stopped. He nudged her again and she continued to walk.

She measured her steps to a slower pace her eyes searching for someone, anyone, that would be coming this way. But there was no one. She was too afraid to attempt to run or walk any faster. If she made any wrong move she defined herself being shot. That cold metal of the gun pressed painfully into her spine again and she swallowed against the pain. She didn’t want to man to believe she was weak. She had to stay calm, she had to think. She wanted to survive this. She didn’t have more than twenty dollars on her but she did have a watch, a gift from her father, that was worth at least two hundred dollars at a pawn shop. Maybe that would be enough to get the mugger off of her back.

“Don’t make any sounds and you make out of this alive.”

She didn’t believe the man’s words. If all he wanted from her was money he would’ve asked for. He was moving her steadily toward a darkened alleyway with there was no light and no hope for rescue. She was a city girl and she knew what this meant. He would be trying to take much more from her than just anything that was on her possession.

She knew how she must’ve looked him. Coming from the dance studio she wore her tight leggings, a spaghetti strap tank top, and the light jacket. On her feet were soft black flats to allow her feet to relax and breathe after being in the jazz shoes for so long. To her attacker her body would’ve been on display. He would have been able to see every curve that she had, and she had plenty of room if she was allowed to joke with herself in a moment like this. He would not just be wanting her money. The idea of just losing her cash and her favorite watch vanished. She was in much more danger now.

As the alley came closer to her she didn’t know what she was more afraid of, dying in the middle of night or what command would do to her before he killed her. The man stepped up close behind her and she could smell the rancid smell onion breath and some unimaginable said that she could not decipher. He wrapped a big greasy arm around her neck and she could see the dirt and grime still stuck under his nails. His fingernails had been shoot down to the quick and dark brown blood had dried there. The man was most likely a meth addict. Her fear escalated even higher. She was tempted to scream but inside she knew that if she angered him it would only bring her demise more swiftly. If she attempted to fight and she cannot see where he had the weapon when she turned around she could be shot before she even took her next breath. Options swirled through her mind as he pushed her around the corner of the alley and deeper into the darkness.

Finally her fear broke loose and any thought of dying simply vanished as survival took hold. She didn’t know where the cold numbness had come from the she think it as it developed her. Her fear had seem to hate and her sense of sight as she looked around for someone who could help. She saw the front end of a sleek Mercedes-Benz start to make a left up to street. It would bring the car closer to her if she could just put yourself in the position to make sure that she could be seen. She let her body relax and follow the man’s instructions as he moved her around but try to keep her body angled so that she can continue see the car coming their way.

Once the car had completely come onto the street she flailed her arms as if she had tripped and then went down on her knees so that the top half of her body was visible outside of the alley.She prayed that would help her to be more visible to the car and that someone would see that something was not right. The man reached down and grabbed her by the scruff of her jacket and she could not help the whimpered that escaped.

“Stupid bitch,” the man ground that her. Fighting to survive now she faith that struggling to get up and allowing her feet to slip on the purchase of the ground as she scrambled around trying to get up.

“I’m trying. I swear I’m trying,” she said much louder than was necessary.

All her dad taught her in the ways of self-defense flooded her mind. Keep your body loose, watch for an avenue of escape, and don’t tire yourself out. You want your attacker to either get tired of fighting to get you or keep your strength for when it really matters. She sent up a silent prayer of thanks to her father and added a prayer for protection as the man wrapped his other arm around her body and she could see that in that hand he held the gun and it was no longer pointed toward her. She grabbed a hold of that hand as tightly as she could and did what her another trick her Army father had always taught her, she stuck her finger into the trigger above the man’s finger and forced him to pull the trigger over and over and over again until she heard the click of an empty magazine. She knew that then someone must have heard. She saw the car swerved and stop suddenly and think her lucky stars that she had gotten someone’s attention.

“Help me!” She struggled harder against the man knowing that he no longer had bullets in his gun. But she had forgotten wanted very important thing, and that could end all of her struggle and fight. Yes the man’s gun was empty but it was still hard enough to hit her like a rock. The man’s arm holding the gun gripped away from her and she felt the pulling on her finger in worried if she had broken it. She then fell to shift again as his aunt arm bearing the butt of the gun bore down towards her face.

“You’re going to get it now. I’m going to enjoy every moment I have with you.”

The rotten smell of his breath they her stomach turn in fear made nausea boil up into her throat that she kept fighting. She would not give this man the benefit of doing anything to her. She had made it so far and she was going to make it through this. Out of the corner of her eyes she saw that the car had stopped. Someone must be coming. Somehow they must have seen or heard her. The gunshots still rang in her ear and she hoped that someone had called the cops. She knew, living in the city for some time now, that most would turn the other way out of fear of being a victim as well but in the safety of their own homes they would call to at least have something checked out. The only thing working against her was that she was surrounded by empty office buildings.

She put all of her prayers into the occupants of the stopped car, her own will to live, and the help of a Good Samaritan. One way or the other she was going to win, there were no other alternatives to her.The butt of the gun came closer to her face and she prayed, that if it knocked her out, that someone in the car was getting the cops or at the very least was coming to her aid. That was all that she could hope for at the moment. She hoped against hope that it would be enough for her.

“Please help me,” she whispered once again as she braced for impact.

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