Amal A. Usman
Melina adjusts her bag on her shoulder and pulls open the restaurant’s back door. She walks inside to the employee changing room. The place is painted gray with blue lockers.
After putting in the code for her locker, she pulls it open, takes out her apron, and ties it around her waist over her uniform. She’s wearing a white button-up shirt and a black skirt.
Pulling her beautiful blonde hair into a tight ponytail, she walks out to the kitchen. A sigh escapes her lips as she remembers what time she’d be clocking out that night.
The sweet aroma of Italian food hits her as she enters the kitchen. She says hi to her coworkers as she approaches the door that leads into the restaurant. Someone beats her to open the door and steps into the kitchen.
“Hi, Melina,” Jane says, smiling. Jane is a lovely twenty-one-year-old with brunette hair and brown eyes. She’s the same age as Melina, and they work together.
“How’re you doing today, Jane?” Melina smiles back at her.
“I’m good. How’re you?”
“Get any sleep last night?”
“You have some pretty serious bags under your eyes.”
“Really?” Melina puts her hand in her apron and fetches a hand mirror. She was positive the bags under her eyes weren’t visible when she left the house.
She checks the mirror to see if that’s still the case. Her face didn’t look bad, but she could still see them.
“Had a nightmare last night?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t go back to sleep.”
Melina and Jane had grown close working together for the last six months since Melina moved to Portland from LA.
“Sorry to hear that; how long have you been up?”
“Since three a.m.” It’s now 5 p.m.
“Wow, you must be exhausted.”
“I’m used to it,” Melina says. She hardly gets enough sleep anymore because of her recurring nightmares. It’d been six months, but she still dreamed about the accident every night.
“I heard talking about it helps,” Jane prompts. She’s tried to get Melina to talk to her about the nightmares since the first day Melina told her.
“I know. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be open enough to talk about it.” Melina feels too ashamed to tell Jane what happened.
Melina also avoids talking about it because it brings back a lot of pain she’s managed to heal from.
“I hope so. If you feel too ashamed or guilty to talk to me, there’re professionals who can help.”
“I know.” Melina smiles softly at Jane, grateful to have a friend like her. She really cares about Melina, and it’s hard to find good friends like that.
“That’s good. I wanted to ask you something.”
“What is it?”
“My mom is flying in today and needs me to pick her up from the airport. Could you cover for me at the bar and lock up afterward?”
“I knew I could count on you, thank you.” She pecks Melina’s cheeks.
“You’re welcome.” Melina smiles.
Melina rests her chin in her palm, waiting for the last customer to finish his drink. She leans across the bar, looking at the man. What troubles him?
He drank a whole bottle of Jack Daniel’s and cried silently in the chair. Was he heartbroken? She can sympathize with him as she’s still healing from hers.
She lets out a breath of relief as the man stands up. Melina pushes off the counter, smiling because she finally can go home.
She waits for him to walk out before heading to the locker room to get her bag and phone. She can’t wait to go home and call it a night.
Melina walks back into the restaurant to find all the lights switched off. Her brows pull together in confusion. She doesn’t remember switching the lights off.
She shrugs her shoulders, thinking maybe she forgot, and walks to the door to be on her way. She freezes as she’s about to turn the doorknob when she hears a voice. Suddenly the lights in the room come back on.
“It’s not time to go home yet, principessa.” Her eyes widen as her brain instantly recognizes the voice. “I’m thirsty, get me something to drink.”
Melina’s heart starts to pound as she begins to tremble. She looks down at her shaking hands, unable to hold the doorknob anymore.
“There’s no need to be scared, principessa. I’m just here to get what’s mine.” Even with her back to the man, she could still picture the evil smirk on his face.
“Tho-m-m-as,” she stutters. Tears fill her eyes as an ache settles in her heart from saying his name.
“Turn around,” he commands.
“You can, and you will. Turn around and look at me!” he yells.
“I’m sorry,” she says, trying to apologize for what happened six months ago. It comes out as a whisper as tears escape her eyes.
“I said fucking turn around, Melina.” Thomas bangs his fist on a table.
Startled, Melina jumps in her spot as more tears fall down her face. She slowly turns, fearing the worst will happen if she doesn’t turn. Her heart sinks, and her knees weaken.
She falls to the floor, staring at him as he sits on one of the restaurant chairs with his legs crossed. Two scary-looking men stand beside him. She recognizes one of them as Thomas’s bodyguard, Leo.
She locks eyes with him, and a knot forms in her stomach. His beautiful ocean-blue eyes once only held love for her. But now they’re burning with rage.
“Come closer.” He puts his hand into his breast pocket and removes a cigarette. His associate reaches over with a lighter and helps him light it. He takes a drag and waits for Melina to move.
She shakes her head no. Thomas raises his eyebrows, throws his cigarette to the ground, and stamps it out.
“I don’t know what made you think you fucking have a choice. Fucking get here now,” he growls.
“I’m sorry, I swear I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t have a choice. James forced me,” I cried out.
“Really? You didn’t fucking have a choice?” he says sarcastically.
“Yes, I swear.”
“That’s odd considering you’re his fucking wife. Get your goddamn ass over here now.”
Melina does the opposite and tries to get away from him. Standing, she turns to open the door behind her. Unexpectedly, the door is locked. Melina shakes the handle, trying to open it.
She panics as she hears footsteps approaching. Turning, she sees Leo walking toward her. She screams as someone grips her by the hair. He drags her away from the door and throws her in front of Thomas.
“Did that kill you?” Thomas asks sarcastically. “You still look the same as when I met you.” He lifts his hands and traces his fingers down her beautiful face.
He touches her pointed nose and high cheekbones. His hands linger on her trembling lips as her cheeks become slippery with her tears. He stares into her green eyes and pulls his finger away.
She shuts her eyes and waits for him to smack her, but the blow never comes. Fluttering her eyes open, she finds him staring at her.
“Where’s my money?”
“I don’t have it.”
“Do I look like I have time to waste, Melina? Tell me where my money is and I’ll make your death less painful.”
“I swear I don’t have it. James took everything.”
“It seems we have to do this the hard way, then.”
“What do you mean?” Melina asks, eyes widening.
“Leo, grab her and take her to the car. Get Kimberly on the phone. Tell her I have a gift for her.” Thomas smirks as he stands. He buttons his suit and moves to the back of the restaurant.
Melina starts crawling toward the front door, forgetting it’s locked. Leo picks her up before she reaches it. She’s screaming and kicking as he throws her over his shoulder, walking them into the kitchen.
“Shut the fuck up,” Thomas shouts in Melina’s face.
“Please let me go, I swear to you, Thomas. I don’t know where the money is. James has it. Please believe me.”
He doesn’t say anything and walks out the back door. They step outside, and two vehicles pull up beside them. Thomas gets into a car while Leo puts her into a van.
Melina opens her mouth to scream for help, but her words get choked as she feels something poke her. A second later, her eyes feel heavy.
She sees a syringe in Leo’s hand, but her head starts to spin before she can comprehend what’s happening. Her body gives out, pulling her into darkness.
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