Jane had just finished making herself a cup of hot chocolate. She glanced at the clock, one thirty. Late. But it was a Saturday, she was in her pyjamas watching late night TV, that pretty much constituted sleep.
Her eyes drifted closed and she started nodding off, all thoughts of work and marking gone – she was day-dreaming of somewhere sunny, somewhere warm.
Her day-dreaming was just tipping over the edge into just plain dreaming when there was a quiet knocking at her door.
She jerked awake, had she just imagined that?
No, there it was again.
She looked at the clock again. It was near two in the morning – who would be visiting at that time? And why would they be knocking so quietly? Surely a burglar checking if anyone was in, or rather out, would want to wake up the occupants to check thoroughly?
Well, there was only one way of finding out.
She got up, stretching her legs in the process and putting down her now cold beverage. Her door had a peep hole of course. She slid aside the cover and peered through.
If it were idiot kids playing knock-door-run why would they knock so quietly? Maybe it was a risk but she was curious so she opened the door and leaned out.
“Hello?” She called out to the dimly lit hall. There was a figure with its back to her, walking away from her door, hood up. She didn’t have any idea who it was but it froze when she called out. It was only short, must be a child.
The figure turned around. Was that…
“Alexis?” She guessed from her size. The hood was pulled down low, casting a shadow over her face. She was the only girl that height who knew her address. She wasn’t in the habit of handing it out to students. “Are you ok?”
Clearly she wasn’t. She must be really desperate for her to come here. She’d been so resistant to any kind of help. What could have happened to make her reach out? Jane would have to be careful not to scare her off. She must have walked a fair way to get here then turned back after only knocking twice.
If she’d been asleep god knows what the girl would have done.
Jane was flattered that she’d even kept her address instead of just throwing it away. There were more important things to think about now though.
“Do you want to come in?” Getting her in the house would be a good idea. It would be harder for her to just walk away.
“Yes please Ms Gregory.” It was a flat, dead tone. Jane stepped back through the door making sure not to touch the child as she held it open.
As she stepped into the light of her living room Jane saw a glint of blood.
“Alexis, your face… What happened?” She asked, shocked. She was worried , if she’d been hurt – had someone hit her again? She had such awful bruises – Jane was familiar with the excuses, having made a couple in her own childhood. A broken nose took ages to stop bleeding. “Come here, let’s have a look.”
She closed the door and turned back to Alexis, who was just standing there swaying slightly. She must really be in shock. Reaching out slowly so she wouldn’t alarm her Jane pulled the hood back and flicked it over the back of the girls head.
Holy F- She nearly swore out loud but managed turn it into a strangled choke as she stopped herself.
The left side of Alexis’ face had a jagged gash going from above her left eyebrow and curving down her cheek. She was covered in blood and there was a large bruise forming on her forehead. Half her face was already beginning to swell up.
What the fuck happened to her?
“Alexis you need to go to a hospital. Sit down.” She was pale, she’d probably lost a lot of blood head wounds tended to bleed profusely.
“I don’t have any money for that.” She replied, still standing.
“I’ll pay.” She’d probably only get it glued and dressed, it wouldn’t cost that much.
“No. No hospital. I c-can’t make y-you pay.” Damn she was so difficult this girl. Still, gluing was an easy procedure. She had the materials and could probably do as good a job as any 3am ER nurse.
“At least let me have a look at it. Come over here and sit down.” She took her hand and led her to the sofa. “Wait here, I’ll go get my first aid kit and some clean water.”
Having trained to be a nurse she always had a first aid kit close to hand, she hurried into the kitchen to retrieve it from under the sink. She grabbed a bowl, filling it with some warm water and a good portion of disinfectant, and a clean cloth.
She thought Alexis had fallen asleep when she returned but her eyes opened slowly at her approach.
“Let me clean your face dear, so I can get a better look at that cut.” Alexis closed her eyes again and gave a small nod.
Very carefully Jane started wiping the grime, dirt and blood from the girls face. A quick look showed the cut wasn’t too deep – as usual for any cut to the head it was just being very dramatic.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she investigated the eye – luckily the eyebrow ridge had prevented any damage. Though it was awash with blood Alexis wouldn’t have any problems with her sight.
The edges were not very clean though, jagged. It made her wonder what had done it. It was going to leave a hell of a scar. Did Alexis realise? Facial disfigurement was tough thing to accept.
Who had done this to her? She was such a nice girl, quiet. It put her own childhood into perspective. She’d first tried to help Alexis because she saw herself, aged 14 whenever she looked at her but what she went through was nothing like this…
“I’m going to apply some glue. It’ll keep the cut together until it has a chance to heal.” She was surprised the girl didn’t even wince – it must have hurt.
Glue was tricky to manage as it started drying as soon as you opened the sachet. It tended to leave less scaring than the old stitches or staples – provided you got everything lined up.
Once she was happy with her work she cut down and stuck on a dressing. It didn’t fit well over such a complex shape – and Jane thought it probably wouldn’t last long if Alexis moved her face much. It would have to do though.
“There, all done.” She said. “I still think you should let me take you to hospital though… Now tell me what happened.”
“Attacked. Mugged. Glass.” She whispered. So she got attacked in the street? Why would anyone attack a schoolgirl, it wasn’t like she was going to have anything of value. A horrifying thought occurred to Jane.
“Alexis, did they… do anything else to you? Hurt you anywhere else I can’t see?”
The girl nodded and Jane’s heart fell – she couldn’t deal with this. Maybe she should ring the school councillor; she’d know how to deal with that kind of trauma. She felt her eyes tearing up, how could anyone do that to such a young girl?
“My back.” She mumbled. Jane frowned – what did she mean by that? She hurt her back? Maybe she miss-understood what Jane had been implying – she let herself hope that was the case.
“Let’s get that jacket off then.” Jane helped unzip it and pull her arms out. The back of the jacket was wet, with more blood she realised. Had she been cut on her back as well? Jane was just about to start pulling her top off when she realised that it probably wasn’t a good idea.
“Erm…” Alexis hesitated and her cheeks flushed – or at least became less pale. A blush. The poor girl was embarrassed.
“Go ahead, you need to take it off if I’m going to dress it. I won’t look.” She turned to face away as the girl pulled it over her head and clutched it bunched up to her chest. “Done?”
She turned back and winced at the sight. There was a huge purple-black doughnut bruise about two hands wide. It was cantered around a single puncture wound. It was a strange combination of blunt-force trauma and a puncture – what could have caused it Jane couldn’t even guess.
“Alexis, how did this happen?” There was no reply. “You are going to have to tell me if you want me to do anything about it – I need to know.”
She waited patiently for a reply this time to give her some time to think. She did appear to be thinking.
“I got shot.” She said eventually. Jane mustn’t have heard her right.
“You got what?” She asked.
“Shot. With a bullet.” Alexis repeated.