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Watch Your Back

Short story

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Watch Your Back

My boy. I looked down at him with pride, his Everton scarf wrapped safely around his neck. He was my boy. We walked towards the bus stop. The excitement was paramount on his face - we’d been looking forward to this for weeks, months. His first match. He smiled at me, crinkling his nose. Innocence. He’d been on about this since I’d bought the season ticket, badgering me to take him, studying the leagues, watching the matches in complete concentration on television, even looking over my shoulder as I read up on the match in the paper.  He’d persuaded me to buy him the kit, the scarf, the duvet cover - and now, it was time to meet his team. I took his hand in mine and crossed the road.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. My heart sunk. I knew what was coming. Shaking, I slid the phone open in my hand and read the text. It was waiting for me. A warning. Capitals. A threat. Three words. They palpitated through my mind. My heart lurched. Watch. Your. Back. I looked down at my boy in panic, pulled him towards me. He looked up at me with enquiring eyes, wondering what I was doing. Relax. Breathe. I feigned a smile at my lad, pulled my scarf a little tighter as I exhaled deeply. I looked around discreetly. It seemed that paranoia had set in.

As we joined the queue for the bus stop, I checked out my surroundings, watching others, checking out my bearings. A man glared at me. My stomach tied itself in to a knot - was this him? Just as I glanced down at my son, a man violently walked in to me, knocking me back a few paces. A tearing pain ripped through me - warmth seeped through me, soaking through my clothes. A scream, a gasp. As I fell back, a stranger caught me and softened my blow to the floor. People from the crowd that began to emerge shouted, chaotically organising help as I bled. I tried to get up to find my boy but my body locked itself to the pavement.

I grasped for his hand and found it, on the floor, not far from my own. Why was he on the floor? My ears pricked up as I heard his cries; that same cry he’d had since he was a baby, high pitched and rife with panic and fear. I screamed his name, grabbed his wrist. Somebody calmly tried to tell me what had happened. Your son has been stabbed. Your son has been stabbed. Your son has been stabbed. The words echoed through my mind as this person - this stranger - repeated it in my ear. I was helpless. Sickness enveloped me as my vision began to blur. I knew it was time, I knew I couldn’t hold on for much longer. The crowd turned in to a mass of colour and shapes as the world began to spin and I knew I was on borrowed time. As I clung to my sons body I fell in to a bottomless sleep.

He survived. The bastard that did this didn’t claim him, oh no. My boy won that battle. My boy held on strong, refused to give up the fight, refused to sink and give in to the bottomless sleep. He’ll always have the scar, though. After he was rushed to hospital, his stomach shedding the same blood as mine, he won. In his sleep, he fought all night, but he knew. He knew I was gone, and he knew I was never coming back. As they stitched his wound - ten stitches - he knew, and when he left the hospital surrounded with gifts, balloons and cards, he knew.

I know it was my fault. I never should have got involved with bloke, but Jesus, I needed the cash. The wife was on to me, my boy needed things. In truth, we’d never struggled as much as we did that winter. We couldn’t even afford to pay the bills and I was sick of seeing the ones I love shiver. What sort of man can’t even afford to keep his family warm? I’m not one to dabble with drugs but it was money. Most of all, it was fast money, and it seemed clean. If only I’d have known the trouble I was going to run in to, the position I had put my family in. They kicked me where it hurt, and it hurt. I came so close to losing my boy, my only child, but they didn’t win. They won’t win. I may not be around anymore, but this is my vow. I vow that they - that bastard of a man - will never get away with this. I have my ways. He has a shock coming to him. Watch. Your. Back.

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