My Side (Tara Brown) - By Tara Brown

Chapter One

Handcuffs and bear spray

Knots didn’t twist in my stomach as the plane landed. I wasn’t as excited as I had thought I would have been. There was a level of freedom, mixed in with my emotions, that was taking over everything else and giving me a feeling of blissful peace.

The guy behind me pressed against me in the lineup to deplane. I moved forward into the lady in front of me, trying to escape the mouth breather. The plane, that had been far too cool in the air, was now a sweaty pit of anxious people ready to leave the confines of the narrow walkway.

I lugged my carry-on to the baggage pickup when we finally started walking. The people surrounding me looked either tired or excited. Only a few seemed like they were unsure of what to feel, like me.

I dragged my white-blonde hair back into a ponytail. The mouth breather was watching me from across the baggage-claim area. I reached into my carry-on and rubbed my hands against the mace in my shorts pocket. I brought it with me everywhere.

I would mace mouth breather’s ass in a heartbeat.

Danny, my brother, had bought me a special blend of bear spray that was supposed to be lethal. I watched the mouth breather with hatred filling my eyes. I wanted him to think again about watching me. I stared him down until he slunk back into the shadows. I wasn’t becoming a skin suit. I saw Silence of the Lambs. I knew about the lotion on the back.

Bags started to go round the conveyor belt, when I finally tore my eyes from his hiding place. I reached and heaved mine off, when I recognized the pink bow my mom had tied on it.

My shoulder burned within seconds of carrying it to the exits, behind the herd of people leaving.

“I can get that for you. Give you a ride to wherever you’re going?”

I sighed and prepared myself to grab the mace as I turned, surprised to see a young guy with a red beard.

I grinned, “Thanks, but I have a ride.”

He nodded at the middle-aged mouth breather with the sweat stains and the greasy, fat face hiding behind a pillar. “Stay away from that guy over there; he was staring at you and muttering some creepy shit when we were on the plane.”

I looked at the disturbing fat guy and weighed my options. If he was on the bus with me, he could follow me and find my house. If I caught a cab he could follow it with another cab. My guts said the redhead was the better option. I handed him my bag, “Okay. Let’s go.”

I could take this guy, maybe. He was thinner and more coffeehouse mellow than mouth-breather, skin-suit-wearing stalker. Either way, there was panic and instability flying through my brain. I had to take deep breaths.

My mind whispered traitorous lies, like I had made a mistake or I wasn’t as brave as I was pretending to be. I knew it wasn’t true. I was brave. I had proved that already once. Maybe more than once.

I followed the redhead to the short-term parking lot. He turned back, “Name’s Mick.”

I smiled, “Nice to meet you, Mick. I’m Erin.” I glanced at my watch, I wanted to be at the apartment by four in the afternoon. It was 3:54; that gave me six minutes. I scowled as he looked at me. “Student?”

I nodded, starting to worry. What if he wasn’t the nice, red-bearded young man he seemed to be?

He beamed, “Me too. I’m in the marine bio master’s. You?” Never mind, he was a student. I felt a bit better until I thought about the fact he had a beard. Divers rarely had beards—right? “Law.”

“At Northeastern?” I nodded and he nodded back, “Cool, me too.” He walked to a black truck, “This is me.”

I slung my bags in the back, “I really appreciate this, Mick.”

He shook his head, “I got a sister, dude. If she ever got ogled by some fat fuck like that, I’d choke his ass.”

I chuckled and climbed into the truck.

“You know Boston?”

He nodded, “Yeah, I did my undergrad here. I’m from Colorado originally.” He started the truck and laughed, “I can tell by the paranoid wild eyes on you, that this is your first trip, huh?”

I did up my seat belt and shook my head, “I came with my family in the summer for orientation.” I didn’t want him to think I was completely at his mercy.