Mitchell S Karnes
Chrystal Jennings gathered the research books into her khaki bag and secured the flap’s button before throwing the strap over her shoulder. It was well past closing time, and the assistant librarian had asked her repeatedly to leave. Why did she always fell into the pattern of procrastination? Here she was rushing frantically the last night to gather all of her sources and do another all-nighter for her history class. Nothing had changed. College wasn’t exactly what she had expected. Well, it was what she had hoped, but her lack of academic discipline and her love of the social life, made studying a chore. Her freshman year was relatively easy, and she was able to juggle the party life and the grades. But this year things were different. This semester, she was falling desperately behind in all of her classes and history was the worst. If Chrystal didn’t get a solid “B” on this term paper, she would fail the class and Daddy would cut his funding of her “experiment” as he put it.
Chrystal had the opportunity to be the first female in her family to graduate from college…to leave Misty Hollow and do something other than marry a farm boy and have lots of babies. She wanted something different. She got it. What she got, however, was about to return her for good to Misty Hollow and the eager arms of Jeb Holt. “Jeb’s a good, solid boy,” Daddy had said. “He’s got two hundred acres of the most promising farm land in the county. What more could you want, Sweetie?” he’d ask. Chrystal said she wanted an education, a chance to make a difference in the world. But college was just an excuse to get her out of town. The temptations were just too strong for her. There were too many things to do, even at this time of night.
Chrystal stood at the door and waited for the assistant librarian to unlock the door and let her out. He made it perfectly clear he was greatly annoyed at her dawdling. He had let her look up one more book and make just two more copies. It had taken her almost another hour to do so. It wasn’t that Chrystal was eager to learn. She just didn’t want to leave the library. Once she headed out those doors, life was waiting. Unfortunately for her, as he closed and locked the door behind her, a dark figure was waiting as well.
She turned and looked through the glass library doors, but the assistant had already put his ear buds in and was walking briskly away. She slipped her left hand into her purse and felt for the small can of mace. Once it was securely in her hand, she turned. He was gone! She looked to the left and right of the courtyard and could not find the dark figure in the gray hoodie and black gloves. Where was he? The campus was just too big and her dorm so far away. Chrystal held the can tightly and made her way down the concrete steps of the library. It was times like these that she cursed her newly acquire sense of fashion. Her stiletto heels were less than conducive to a brisk walk, let alone an attempt to job home. But the hairs on her neck were standing on edge and she knew something was about to happen…something bad.
Just as she started to jog toward the courtyard steps, he hit her from behind. Her right ankle turned and she heard and felt the sickening pop simultaneously. The pain shot through her ankle and she tumbled down the short flight of aggregate steps, banging her shoulder and head against the brick divider. Chrystal lost the bag, and with it the can of mace. Finally, her body fell flat on the five by eight landing. Her head throbbed, her ankle was on fire, and the fall had knocked the wind right out of her lungs. She panicked. As much as she tried, her lungs wouldn’t suck any air. She gasped and gasped. Chrystal couldn’t breathe, and she couldn’t move.
The man jumped over her body, straddling her chest. He grabbed her jacket and tore it open, busting the zipper. But as he grabbed for her shirt, he stopped cold. “Hey!” a shout came from the other side of the courtyard. “Leave her alone.” The man mumbled an obscenity and bolted off into the darkness of Everbright’s campus woods. “You okay?” the voice asked.
Chrystal looked up, but couldn’t say anything. Could it be? The dark figure with the hoodie bent over her body. He slipped the gloves from his hands and reached for her leg. “No!” she screamed as the air finally filled her lungs. (to be continued)