I practically jump out of my skin when a deep throat clears behind me. The bucket of dirty water falls on the step and the grass as I spin around and find myself staring at the one man I don’t want to see, Zero.  

“Are you just going to stand there or help me out.”  

It’s then I notice he’s holding grocery bags in both hands and a pack of beer under his arm. His face cracks at what I think is a partial smile.  

He seems so relaxed today apart from the leather pants and black t-shirt of course. It’s almost like he was… My mind screams to shut the thought down and my eyes widen as I stumble back.  

Invisible fingers start chocking me. The mop drops from my hand as I lift my arms to fend off my attacker. 

“Don’t you dare,” Zero screams but this time I don’t listen to his command as I lose my footing, falling on the wet tiled floor.  

I pull the invisible fingers constricting my air supply, my nails clawing my already bruised neck, my eyes bulging.  

It’s too bad that it feels so real, that I can’t tell present from past. My scream as I feel hands bind my own on top of my head is the last memory I have before I fade. 

“Wake up, Beauty.” Zero’s imposing voice says to me.  

“No.” I reply in a wince, the rawness of my throat informing me that I had an ‘episode’. It’s what a stripper called it when I flipped in front of her. 

“Come on, you gotta drink some water, you’ve been out like a light for two hours.”  

He actually sounds like he cares, concerned, ha.  

“My names Beggar.” I clear my throat, my eyes still not open. 

He laughs softly.  

“No, it’s not, and as long as you refuse to tell me your name, I’m gonna call you Beauty. It’s suiting don’tcha think?” He drawls in a thick Texan accent.  

I open one eye and instantly regret it.  

He’s practically leaning over me and the big smile on his face is too much for me. 

“No, I don’t think. Could you sit there.” I point to the bottom of my bed. He frowns and has a fucking nerve to look offended, as if.  

“Why? Is my handsome face too much for you?”  

I open both my eyes at the question.  

“Handsome?” I snort and grimace when my throat pains.   

“Scary, is more like it.” 

He laughs as he leans closer. 

My eyes grow wider, “What are you doing?” I hiss, “I don’t like to be touched, don’t you know.” 

“I carried you upstairs and I can assure you that you liked it, don’t you know.” 

I scramble into a sitting position, knees to my chest, hair falling over my face, hands on my toes. Head to my knees but it doesn’t touch, it mustn’t. 

“You have no reason to be scared of me Beauty. You know I would never hurt you. Someone else hurt you, not me. You wanna talk about it? Tell me who hurt you.” His tone drops, cajoling, like a professional predator leering its prey into servitude. 

I watch his face from the gaps of my hair. He rakes his fingers through his hair, before the same fingers goes to play with the 3-inch scar under his eye.  

“Do I?” I dry whisper as my head tilts to get a better glimpse at him through the small gap in my hair. 

“Yes! Deep down you know. Drink your water Beauty, lunch is in twenty.”  

“I’m not ready to share,” I say.  

He stares really hard at me, like he can see me but it’s not possible because I’m covered right? 

“You already have Beauty, and soon I’ll know all your secrets.”  

Zero gets up and walks to the door.  

I barely turn my head to watch him, seeing if he’ll turn.  

He doesn’t. 

I’m not sure what I feel when he closes the door. I just know it is dangerous, very dangerous. 

The pudding next to my bed in line with the water just reinforces what I already know, dread, him being right.