// Five //

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The man's heavy black boots splashed through puddles as he approached, kicking the rain up in a spray. As the street lights bathed him in a dim, yellow glow, his face came into view. His harsh features were lined with a thin, neatly-trimmed beard, and his lips turned down in a scowl.

When his gaze landed on me, his dark eyes narrowed and a chill ran up my spine, settling into the base of my skull. I breathed in a thin mist of icy rain. My heart slammed against my rib cage, forcing blood, heat and adrenaline through my veins.

"Don't even think about running." The man smirked. He purposefully pushed back the side of his trench coat, revealing for a split second the flickering black metal of a gun. He took another step forward and stopped right in front of me. His hot breath covered my face, coating my skin like a layer of wet paint.

"You must be Aaron." He reached up and touched my cheek gently. I flinched as his ice-cold fingers ran over my skin. I wanted to slap his hand back, but I resisted the urge, thinking about the gun.

A tattoo of a deformed skull was etched in intricate, black ink on the back of his hand. Tentacles burst out of the skeleton's mouth like vomit and crawled up the man's fingers and thumb toward his black, painted nails. "You're a good-looking kid, aren't you?" he asked. Rage boiled inside of me like lava as he talked down to me. "You didn't tell me that about him, Jennifer."

Jen glared at the man with icy scorn, but she didn't say anything. Makeup ran around her eyes in the rain, making her look like a crying raccoon. Her platinum blond hair lay flat on her head, soaked.

"Richard, j-just leave him alone," Clara stuttered behind me.

"Quiet! Let him speak for himself." He finally took his hand off of me, and I let out the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. He glanced over to Clara, and I swore if he so much as took a step towards her, I would attack. If he threatened either of them, I would claw into his neck until I drew blood.

Richard turned his attention back to me. "You are from the States, I hear. I love that American accent. Could you say something for me in it, please?"

I clenched my jaw tightly. Cars roared on distant streets. I needed to keep myself calm. I couldn't lash out at him.

"Count down from ten, Aaron," my father had told me when I was fifteen. We stood on opposite sides of the living room. It was the middle of the night. "I need you to calm down."

"I can't!" I ground my teeth together. The rage was overpowering, and it consumed everything around me like wildfire. All I wanted to do was break something. The walls, myself, I didn't care what it was. Something needed to shatter.

"Shy?" Richard's voice brought me back to the present. He smirked. "Let's try: would you like fries with that?" He grinned and bared his teeth in a sneer.

I kept my mouth firmly shut. My hands clenched into fists at my sides, but I resisted the urge to attack. Saliva pooled in the base of my jaw around my tongue, and I swallowed it in a lump. Rain streamed down the street and into the gutter by my feet. Ten... nine...

"No?" Richard finally asked. "Cat got your tongue? Well, that's all right." He paused for a second and licked his thin lips. "I bet you have a pretty smile, Aaron. May I see it?"

His glare burned holes in me. I pulled air in through my nose with quick breaths as my vision darkened around the edges. Anger grew inside me like fire as he taunted me. I imagined myself shoving him to the ground. I imagined clawing at his eyes.

Eight... seven...

Before I knew what I was doing, I was slamming my fists into the wall, and I was screaming. My dad grabbed me, pinning my arms to my sides. "Stop!" he yelled at me. "Aaron, stop! You're hurting yourself!"

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