Chapter One
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Katerina passed by the coffee shop, just to see who was working. The green and beige awning waved at her in the wind and wafted the scent of baked goods and fresh roasted beans towards her envious nose. No one worth engaging with was there, and with no money for treats, she hastened away. Even so, her stomach let out an involuntary lurch and Katerina made a quick mental remark about the day being too cheerful before crossing the sidewalk to in front of the antique store.

            The t-shirt she had on had been a present from her best friend, Ianna some handful of years ago when they still spoke regularly. It was well worn in most places, but just thick enough that you couldn’t see her underclothes through it. The light green accented her curves, of which there were plenty and brought a friendliness to her face that was too forced to be believed. Her jeans were a worn faded, but that added a decent amount of comfort and she was glad of that each time she pulled them on. The high top sneakers on her feet didn’t draw any attention to the length of her legs and they didn’t need to. A little on the heavy side, Katerina looked down in a self-conscious gait and knew that it was almost time to resume her post. The wind picked up and so did she, trying her hardest not to be seen or distracted.

            The smell of refuse and sewer water hit her nostrils and that was Katerina’s cue to turn right. The road between her and the source of the smell was known as Devil’s Alley, but actually was the old Route 73, which divided New Hollow into a north and south district. Even so, New Hollow was the tiniest town she’d ever lived in, but it was also the place she’d lived in the longest and that had to count for something. Memories of the past threatened to overtake her and she paused only slightly to regain composure. She rubbed the creases in her forehead and continued to her home.

            Reaching the front of her home, Katerina immediately prepared for the worst. Although adamant that she’d locked the door, it was slightly ajar, with one dirty handprint swiped across it. Pressing gently, her eyes landed on the mud covered work boots were in the walkway, along with a safety jacket. The coat stand was on the ground, slightly bent along with the remains of the shelf where keys usually went. The smell of alcohol was faint, but just enough to remind Katerina to tread carefully. If she was lucky, it would just be a continuation of a work party. If she was lucky, her mind echoed the same concerns it usually did. A cup spilled over in the kitchen, the cracking of china flooding her ears. She immediately closed the door.

            “Katerina! Where the hell have you been? There is no food in this shit-hole!” Josh’s voice boomed as more dishes fell to their deaths, joining the others in a mottled graveyard. The smell of alcohol permeated the room and Katerina was certain that this was not a party come home. “Do you think I work for fun?”

            “No. I just…I went for a walk. I didn’t talk to anybody and I thought I would make it back before you got home. I’ll get started on dinner right away.” Kat’s voice cracked, the fear coming through and her nerves giving way.

            “You do absolutely nothing all day long and you can’t even provide a decent meal for the only person who gives a damn about you? You pathetic waste of space.” Josh staggered to her, his hot breath suffocating her. She backed up until she could go no further. She was pinned against the fridge. “I’m not even sure why I bother.”

            “I’m sorry. I promise it will never happen again. How was work? How can I make you happy?” Kat attempted once more to level her voice, but the squeaking occurred once more. Josh, although entirely intoxicated managed to backhand her across the face with a loud pop. The tears filled her eyes and she began to plead for forgiveness. Josh wove his fingers into her hair and pulled her face up to his.

            “You think that’s funny? Asking me how to make me happy about getting fired? How about this-you get on your knees and beg my forgiveness and maybe I won’t hurt that pretty face of yours.” Josh kept his hand in her hair as Kat’s knees gave out. The tears gushed out of her eyes and her mumbles grew quieter. He jerked her hair back and Katerina let out a scream, involuntary, but quite loud. “You like it rough, don’t you? I forgot. You get more out of this than I do.”

            Past fights surged through her mind and as she braced herself for what would come next, she decided that the best thing to do was to be insignificant. It would make him feel like he was in charge and she might just make it through without any significant injury. She said nothing and took one look into his bloodshot eyes. A mistake.

            The fist connected with her cheekbone before she even realized it was coming toward her. It took a second for the pain to register and by then there was another already being delivered. She dropped to the floor, as close to limp as she could be and prayed that maybe he would believe he had knocked her out. Another mistake. Josh’s foot caught her in the stomach and she let out a moan. Another kick landed at her rib cage and the breath that had been there before immediately left her. Gasping, Katerina put her hand in front of her face and curled into a fetal position. Josh bent down clumsily and brought his open hand down on her ear, her hands, and anywhere he could hit that would cause her to flinch. When she had no choice but to protect places other than her face, he delivered one more punch to her face, this time her eye.

            Katerina felt the pressure in her eye, but only as an afterthought. The pain from the back of her skull screamed for attention and continued to do so as Josh went for another blow. Her face felt warm, the kind that really only meant blood-she’d felt it before. Her vision was blurred and she knew she wouldn’t be able to stand. Josh sped up, delivering blow after blow to various parts of her body, but she no longer fought to protect herself. Certain she was going to die, Katerina gave up and let her mind drift to thoughts that didn’t hurt near as much as he did.

Next: Chapter Two

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