A large wine glass smashes into a perpetual scattering of shards and minuscule pieces as it slips from the tray; causing the entire restaurant to look up. Anna’s face turns a shade of red as she runs off to grab a dustpan; ‘butter-fingers’ announces her colleague Amy; Anna tries her best at faking a smile. She’s been on her shift since 5 pm – it’s now 11:45 – she’s tired, agitated, and ready for bed. Nearly time to go, Anna thinks as she scoops up the shards and shiny crystals of glass; walks through the kitchen door and violently bangs them into the bin. The Chefs have gone home, so she decides to grab a quick snack as she missed dinner. Opening the walk-in fridge – Anna spots a portion of cheesecake and wolves it down urgently; energy for the walk home she tells herself.
It’s mid-December and crisp, light snowflakes scatter the ground, dusting the pavements like icing sugar. Anna looks out of the window at the ominous dark night, and puts her jacket, scarf, and headphones on; she thinks “one for the road” as she necks a glass of the Chefs’ red wine. Anna says her goodbyes at the restaurant; it’s only a ten-minute walk to her rural cottage; she’s used to it now, so heads for the door earnestly.
The cold wind hits her as she pushes the heavy door open, and a gloomy blackness lowers her mood. Icy, illuminating raindrops have now replaced the flutter of festive, white snowflakes and they advance on her sideways in the howling wind. Walking down the narrow country lane – the air is thick and heavy; Anna is struggling to see. Her small key-ring torch helps her find her feet, but she faces darkness and has a peripheral awareness of something lurking nearby. Tall, menacing trees shake violently, and leaves tear into the wind like skin being ripped off bone; Anna’s imagination gets the better of her and she begins to jog, very lightly and cautiously.
She doesn’t see it coming; the van’s lights are off as it ploughs into the side of Anna, knocking her into a ditch. The speed was slow, intentional and enough to send her into deep shock and disorientation. The driver staggers out; a tall slim man dressed in black. His round glasses pierce through the slit in his balaclava – which doesn’t quite cover his long greasy hair. The man pulls out a torch from his coat pocket; in an intoxicated state, he tries to focus, occasionally catching the helpless, whimpering young lady, lying in the ditch.
Dragging Anna by her neck scarf, he forcefully rolls her into a prone position on the cold, damp road; he is aggressive and shouts ‘shut-up bitch!’ with chilling conviction. The man opens the rear of the van, hoisting her in like a rag doll. Through Anna’s panic breaths, she detects a strong smell of alcohol and body odour; her whimpers become louder, more desperate. As her heart forcefully beats at her chest – she thinks – I am going to die. slamming the door shut – he jumps into the driver’s seat and makes his getaway, through the dark and narrow country lanes.
Just four minutes later – the van skids to the side of the road, protruding half-way from a holly bush; the man has fallen asleep, intoxicated – with his blackened face pressed to the steering wheel. Bruised, battered, and bleeding – Anna is still conscious and sees an opportunity to escape. Her right hip agonizes with pain, so she turns onto her left, pulling herself towards the passenger seat. She passes dirty old rags, smelling of oil and white spirit as she rolls herself into the seat and reaches for the door handle; trying to be as stealthy as possible. In the compartment below the handle sits a medium-sized hammer which she grabs with a sudden urgency. Anna is in shock and fearing for her life; in an emotion fuelled aberration, she raises the hammer, and with all her force swings the cold, iron stump towards the man’s head.
She misses, instead of indenting his skull – Anna strikes him on his right shoulder as the hammer releases from her weak, slippery grip – sending him into a frenzy. He screams and shouts ‘bitch, bitch!’ The man lashes out with the back of his left hand, hitting her twice in the face. Anna feels like she’s in a nightmare, dizzy and spaced out; she thinks – I will wake up in my warm bed any minute now. These thoughts evaporate when her mouth bursts open, causing her to spit a mouthful of blood and teeth; reawakening her once more. In a moment of ‘fight or flight’ – primal instincts coarse through Anna’s veins and she grabs the door handle, leaping out in sheer panic and desperation.
Hobbling down the dark lane – Anna tries to run; moving on pure adrenaline as heavy, swaying footsteps become louder. Anna doesn’t look back; she’s praying for her life. The footsteps eventually fade into the distance and she makes it back to the restaurant. Using her key – she lets herself in and phones for help.
It’s eight weeks until Anna returns to work in the restaurant; she suffered severe bruising, a fractured hip, two broken teeth, and is still undergoing therapy with a psychiatrist. With strong determination though – she decided that life must go on. She now relies on a lift from a friend instead of walking, and takes another route to her cottage; Anna is too distraught to go back to the same spot. ‘Drinks for table four’ Amy announces to Anna; ‘got it’ she replies. ‘Two glasses of red wine, two cokes for the kids’ Anna asks the family sat at table four. A tall, thin man, with glasses, and shoulder-length hair stares her in the eyes and says – ‘yes please’.
A.T Hawthorn – 23.7.19