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Freestyle: Chapter 30

Three years ago

“We won! Holy fucking shit, we won!” I scream, ripping off my red mask and throwing myself into Zayn’s arms, laughing with joy. It bubbles up and out of my chest, mixed up with pride and a huge sense of achievement. We did it. We actually did it.

Zayn lifts me off the floor and spins me around and around until we’re both dizzy with happiness. By the time he puts me down, he too has lost his mask we all wore as part of our performance. White for the boys, red for me. A nice prop that the crowd went crazy for. Team that up with Zayn’s insane choreography and X Gon’ Give It To Ya by DMX and there was no fucking contest.

“You were insane, Pen!” he says, fist bumping me, then pulling me in for a hug.

“So were you!” My face splits into such a wide grin that my muscles already hurt from overuse. I’ve never been this happy. Not ever.

We. Killed. It.

Just like old times, we’ve spent hours perfecting the routine this last month. Since the whole cemetery thing and that night my brother decided to beat the shit out of me, Jeb’s backed off and has given us some space. Maybe whatever Xeno and Zayn had said to Jeb that night sunk in. All I know is that they’ve been spending all their spare time with me this last month and not with the Skins, so things have calmed down a lot.

I’ve never been more relieved about anything in my life. It’s my birthday, we’ve just won the battle and the Breakers I know and love, are back.

The roar of the crowd and the excitement in the air is nothing compared to how I feel as Dax steals me from Zayn’s arms and plants a hot kiss against my lips. He engulfs me with his body, wrapping me up in a sweaty hug.

“We aced this, Kid,” he says. Happiness, a tonic we both need so desperately.

I chuckle as I’m hauled out of his arms and into York’s who hugs me close and plants a kiss on the top of my head. “Titch, you were fucking outstanding. Do you know that?”

“We all were. That trick you and Xeno did. Fuck, it was like you were flying, York!” I laugh, joining in with his happy feet as the crowd around us starts piling onto the dance floor to congratulate us on our win. The opposing crew make their way over and give us all begrudging handshakes. “Where’s Xeno?” I ask, looking for him in the thickening crowd.

“I dunno. He disappeared the second the announcement was made,” Dax responds, a frown marring his happiness.

“I’ll find him,” I say brightly, pushing through the crowd before they can stop me. Casting a look over my shoulder, I laugh as they’re engulfed by well wishes. All I want is for Xeno to share in our success, he was incredible and danced with a kind of freedom I’ve never really seen before. He executed all the steps with precision and a fierce determination. Something fucking magical happened tonight and I need to tell him that.

Spotting him across the far side of the dance floor talking to one of the organisers, I make my way over to him, stopping periodically to speak to people congratulating me on our win. When I feel a firm grip around my upper arm, I turn around expecting to find another enthusiastic clubber only to come face to face with David. My next fucking breath gets snatched from my lungs and I feel all the blood drain from my face.

“Hello, little sister. Quite a show you put on tonight,” he says. His voice is cold, and he has a dangerous smile on his face. One I recognise only too well.

“What are you doing here?” I stutter, his presence having the desired effect.

Despite the heat of the club, my sweaty skin turns cold. Ice fucking cold. The last time I saw him was the night my Breakers had seen him off and he’d driven away with the smell of burnt rubber and threats in the air. That was almost two months ago.

“Did you enjoy it?” I ask, stalling for time. Still by Dr Dre and Snoop Dog starts to play and the crowd, already hyped by the show we just put on, start getting down, completely oblivious to my predicament. David laughs, gripping my arm so tight I know it’s going to leave a bruise. I grind my teeth against the pain.

“No. I didn’t,” he snarls, hauling me against his side and pulling me through the crowd.

“Wait. I need to collect my prize winnings. You can have it, all of it. I don’t want it. I got it for mum, but I’m sure she’d want you to have it,” I lie.

David barks out another laugh, manhandling me through the crowd. “You never were a particularly good liar.”

“David, please…”

“You are coming with me quietly, otherwise I will make this night so much worse for you, Penelope.” His features turn even more monstrous and fear makes me compliant.

“David, can we talk about this…” I begin, a feeble attempt at trying to appease the monster inside of him. His silver cross glints in the club’s flashing lights and I want to yank it from his neck and shove it down his throat so he can choke on his belief that he’s doing all of this to save my fucking soul. But I know the truth. Religion is his excuse to mete out punishment in the Lord’s fucking name. It’s bullshit. He’s the devil incarnate. A psychopath. An abuser. There’s nothing saintly about him and no cross wrapped around his neck will ever absolve him of his fucking sins. Fuck, I wish I was tougher when it comes to him, but I’m not. He scares the shit out of me.

“Yeah, we’re gonna talk, Penelope. Somewhere private.” He looks down at me, his brown eyes the same shade as my own. It makes me feel sick that I might resemble him in any way.

“Why don’t we get a drink at the bar?” I suggest, not wanting to be alone with him any-fucking-where. Where the hell are my boys?

Keeping me close to his side and his grip bone-crunchingly tight, David laughs. “Nice try, but you ain’t getting away from me. Besides, your boys are otherwise engaged.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, as I walk stiffly beside him to the VIP area of the club I’ve never been to before now. I’ve heard the rumours about what goes down behind those solid, black doors and I don’t want any part of it. I come to Rocks to dance. That’s it.

“They’re Skins and they’ve got business to attend to, giving us plenty of time to talk.”

The bouncer nods at David and holds open the door to the portion of the club used for shady deals and fuck knows what else. Stepping into a dimly lit room that smells of weed, alcohol and sex, David walks me over to an empty booth in the corner of the room. I can hear moaning noises and the distinct sound of people fucking. Elsewhere people are playing cards, betting with money and lives, most likely. I don’t look around too much, instead, I keep my gaze fixed ahead of me and pray for a fucking miracle.

“Sit down, Penelope,” David barks, watching me with soulless eyes as I slide into the seat opposite him. Shivers wrack my body and I try desperately to keep a lid on them. He feeds off my fear, he always has

“What do you want, David?” I ask, schooling my features and tucking my shaking hands beneath my thighs. I still bear the bruises from his last beating. They may no longer mark my skin, but the scars of his abuse run far, far deeper than what you see on the surface.

“I told you not to go near the Breakers again the last time we spoke. I warned you, Penelope, but you wouldn’t listen, would you?”

“We’re friends, nothing more,” I lie, hoping to fuck my face doesn’t betray me. “We’re just dancing. They’re your crew members. I thought you’d approve of our friendship.”

“APPROVE?!” he roars, slamming his fist on the table and making me jump. “You do not belong to them, Penelope. You’re my flesh and blood. You’re fucking mine!”

“I’m your sister, David, not your property, you twisted fuck!” I bite back, unable to help myself. That feisty part of me is still holding onto the hope that one day I’ll be strong enough to end him. I really should’ve known better.

Before I even know what’s happened, David has launched at me over the table and slammed his fist into the side of my head, just behind my hairline. The force of his punch knocks me sideways against the leather seat, my ears ringing. Stars form behind my closed eyelids and for a moment I think I’m going to pass out. With a panicked heart and tears springing from my eyes, I force myself upright, swiping at my face furiously.

“Now look what you made me do,” he remarks, sitting back in his seat and watching me with narrowed eyes as I blink away my double-vision and shake out the ringing in my head.

“What do you want, David?” I ask, quieter this time, because I know what he wants and this time ignoring his threats isn’t going to work.

“Your friendship with the Breakers ends tonight. You don’t see them again. You don’t speak to them. You don’t fucking think of them,” he snarls, his pitch black hair falling into his eyes.

“David, please…” Begging has never, ever, got him to change his mind, but I do it anyway.

“You’ve been sneaking around under my nose all this fucking time making a fool out of me, and I will not allow it, Penelope. Understand?!”

“No, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you hate me so much. What did I ever do to you?” I ask.

For years I’ve wanted to know why I was the butt of all his hate. Why I was his punching bag. We both grew up with a shitty mother and whilst that brought me and Lena closer, it never did the same for David and me. I wonder whether something terrible happened to him before I was born. Whether our mother or father did something to scar him so badly that he’s never gotten over it and it’s twisted him into this monster I see before me now.

He cocks his head to the side. “You think I do this because I hate you?” Something softens in his gaze but instead of making me feel better, my fear turns sickly, it grows nails and claws churning up my stomach.

Oh God no. Please no.

“I don’t hate you, Penelope.” He reaches across the table and grabs my hand, his fingers trailing over my knuckles whilst his other hand fingers the cross at his neck. “I love you.”

But this isn’t a brotherly-sisterly kind of love. The way he’s looking at me is something far, far worse.

“No!” I snap my hand away from his and push back into my seat. “You’re sick.”

The softness evaporates, replaced instead with a menacing glare. “The only one who is sick is you, with your slutty ways, tempting me. Making me think sinful thoughts. You deserve to be punished, you filthy little whore.”

My skin pales as I realise how much worse growing up with David could’ve been if he’d given in to his own sick desires. David’s fist slams against the table, making me jump.

“Tonight you dump the Breakers. You cut them out of your life for good because if you don’t…”

“If I don’t…” I swallow the bile burning my throat and blink back the tears.

“If you don’t, I will wrap my hands around Lena’s pretty little neck and squeeze until she can’t breathe again.”

This time the bile I’ve been holding in catapults itself from my body and I throw up all over the floor and seat, barely missing myself and the table. David laughs and slides out of the booth.

“Catch you later, Penelope,” he says, before sauntering off and leaving me to clean up the mess.

Stumbling out of the booth and blindly looking for the ladies room, I push through a door just off the side of the bar and into a dark corridor beyond. I’m sobbing now, smothering my hand over my mouth as I try to stifle the sound. This isn’t the place to be weak. Most of the people lurking in this area will spit me up and chew me out given half the chance. I need to splash my face with water and get the fuck home back to Lena. I need to know she’s okay. If I tell mum what David’s threatened to do, maybe she’ll do something. For all her faults, of which she has many, she loves Lena.

Another round of nausea rises up my throat and burns my tongue threatening to spill out onto the floor, so I push open the nearest door hoping I’ve stumbled across the toilet.

“What the fuck?!” a voice roars.

Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Before me, Jeb, the leader of the fucking Skins, is standing with his pants pushed down to his ankles whilst a guy on his knees deepthroats him. A guy. A fucking man.

Holy fucking shit.

I’m dead.

I’m fucking dead. Not metaphorically. Actually.

Jeb is straight as a die, or so everyone believes. So if he’s back here getting his cock sucked behind closed doors then this is a secret, something he doesn’t want anyone to see, let alone me. I’m so fucking dead.

Two things happen at once. I promptly throw up again with the stress of my brother’s threat, barely missing the guy on his knees, and Jeb lunges for me, his dick slipping from the guy’s mouth.

I run.

Blind fear fuels me and I skid on my own vomit, grabbing the wall to keep steady before legging it down the corridor.

I don’t get far.

A thick arm folds around my waist, hauling me backwards. “Now, now, pretty girl. Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

“I didn’t see anything… I-I was lost. I-I’m sorry, I’ll clear up the mess,” I rattle out, my tongue a loose, word-spewing, mess.

“Let’s have a chat, shall we?” Jeb says. His voice is a low, threatening growl in my ear.

I consider fighting back. That thought lasts all of a second when I realise that Jeb will sooner put a bullet in my head than let me even raise a fist to him, or run again. The only thing I can do now is exactly what he asks and hope that somehow he doesn’t decide to kill me.

Letting out a whoosh of breath, I allow Jeb to drag me into one of the other rooms along the corridor. Inside is a medium sized office with a large mahogany table, along the back wall are six TV’s, all recording footage of the club. A large man is sitting with his back to us, busy watching his mobile phone, his headphones plugged into his ears, laughing raucously. He isn’t looking at the screens and he definitely isn’t paying attention to his environment given we’ve just walked in without him noticing. Jeb deposits me on a seat in the corner of the room then steps up behind the man, picks up his gun that he’d left so carelessly on the table and places it against his temple.

The man freezes.

I stop breathing.

Jeb yanks out the man’s headphones and leans over, pressing his mouth against his ear. “You’re fired,” he snarls, then pulls the fucking trigger.

Blood, brain, and bone burst out of the side of the man’s head, splattering the wall opposite, leaving nothing but a gaping mess.

My mouth opens in a silent scream. Inside my head the sound is blood-curdling.

Tonight, I’m going to die.


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