The gray walls of the practice room shook with every blow. The bare bulb trembled when the hit moved the hinges that kept the heavy punching bag hanging from the roof. Lara’s whole body was shaking of pure anger and impotence.
The bag was long and cylindric, its black material tarnished with dirt. Nevertheless, Lara, clenching her fists and biting on her lip harshly, could only see one person. Soft ash blonde hair, sparkling eyes and rosy lips: Baekhyun.
Bow after blow she punched her anger away. Lara hated body combat. It reminded her she was weak and she wasn’t strong enough to bring down an opponent. The poor punching bag swung from right to left tiredly, afraid of Lara’s sharp punches.
She hated being confined in the Catacombs – punch
She hated the smell of expensive food when it was brought to her room – punch
She hated her new silk sheets – punch
She hated the tight dresses and the high heels shoes he forced her to wear at night, even if she felt like cold and disgust could kill her – punch
But, above all other things, she hated not being able to hate Byun Baekhyun – The hard kick echoed through all four grey walls. Lara collapsed, exhausted. At least there was one thing she had learned from him: you could punch your anger away.
The day she had come back from the hospital, boss was already waiting for her in his office, a clear dome made of armored glass that barely rose from the ground, in the middle of an open field filled with daisies. That bloody office was the top floor of the Catacombs.
While prisoners lived in the dark, he could enjoy the view and the sky whenever he wanted to. While innocent children fought to death, he lived among leather sofas, varnished wooden shelves and a walnut bureau. While they were barely taught how to read and write in order to understand the weekly ranking, he was engulfed by a galaxy of leather-bound books.
Upon entering the office, Lara felt sick at all the luxury. Stars shone above the glass dome and the books smelt like old paper. The atmosphere was far too rustic and pleasant for somebody so heartless. She had heard her escorts calling him Byun, with their eyes shining with respect and dread.
When Lara thought about the person who made those towering chunky men shake, she could only imagine a monster. He would have grey skin and pale eyes, a greasy smile and red lips, as if stained with blood. She imagined yellow teeth and some rigid, gelled hairstyle. He would dress an Italian couture suit, obviously tailored, with a silk neckerchief, red, to match his bloodlust.
But when the man behind the walnut bureau rose to greet her, Lara felt the world was playing her a cruel joke. He had dark bright eyes, small rosy lips and milky fair skin. He wore a simple white shirt with the first buttons undone and his ash blonde hair flowed gracefully every time he moved.
La stumbled backwards, but a chunky guard stopped her before she could flee the room.
“Behave, doll”, he whispered. His sticky lips were too close to her ear and she couldn’t stop the shiver that shook her.
Boss Byun was staring at her with a sweet smile, taking her in whole- from the new sneakers she was wearing to the messy bun on top of her head. He moved slowly, enjoying the sound his heels made until he was barely one step away from Lara. He reached to caress her cheek, but after hesitating for a second, she moved her face away harshly. Boss Byun tore his icy fingers from her face and gave her a sad smile. Lara thought he looked as if his lips were too heavy. He was too tired to smile but he forced himself to do it.
“I’m glad to see you are feeling better, Lara” he said. “Starting from tomorrow, you will be joining our services. The gentlemen” he gestured to the guards behind her, “will show you to your room. You already know the other facilities” Lara tried to ignore the brief grimace he made before he continued talking. “I believe we can skip the introductions”
Weren’t it for the fat fingers buried in her arms, Lara was sure she would be on the floor. She didn’t have enough strength to endure that. Not mental, nor physical. Boss? Since when? Her knees and hands shook visibly and her whole body felt terribly cold. A sharp needle pierced her heart. Lara felt her own dread smothering her.
Everything had vanished, even the pain in her arms where the guards held her. But his face was still there, as defined as always. His eyes glistened with a kind of worry Lara understood as another performance of his.
I’m tired of you mocking me, Baekhyun
She stood upright and took a deep breath to regain consciousness of her surroundings, just like Baekhyun had taught her. She saw him smile briefly. But it disappeared so fast maybe it had been her imagination. And now he was staring hardly at her once again.
“You’re Baekhyun” she said weakly, “but I don’t know you.”
Lara stared at the punching bag as if it held the answer to all of her problems. She had spent twenty-four days trapped in a hospital, hoping to know the outside world, only to discover she would be taken once again to the Catacombs. After so many years and so much hate for the grey hallways and the moldy lights, she was trapped once again between the walls of a dirty practice room.
The bag was still swinging from her last kick. She had crumbed to the floor afterwards, dragged by fatigue and the throbbing pain in her ribs that reminded her that her body hadn’t totally healed.
Lara still had nightmares of a faceless man, his features always covered by a mask of black smoke. She felt the way her damp clothes clung onto her icy skin and how pain traveled through her body. It burned her bones until she woke up panting in her dark room.
Lara shivered at the memory. She didn’t need to imagine the pain that bit her side, it was painfully real. Literally. One of the bullets had broken one of her ribs. But- even when the doctor had insisted she should rest and Baekhyun himself had told her not to train too hard- Lara refused to stay in her room during daytime waiting for night to fall so she could act like a princess.
She hated it.
When her clock read six in the evening, Baekhyun would come find her to her room. Never a minute late, nor earlier. He was always well dressed, from his combed hair, to his fine tuxedo and his expensive shoes. Always using his intoxicating cologne. She had to wear that day’s silk dress, killer high heels and the make-up an unknown woman came to apply her at half past five. She never uttered a single word.
Baekhyun greeted her with a wide smile and a warm hug, but Lara could see how tired he was. It seemed that with every day that passed his arms became heavier and heavier and the dark bags under his soft eyes did nothing more but grow. Each night he found it harder to stick to the conversation about what he liked to call “the Business”. After the first dinners, Lara had learnt it was better not to pay attention rather than being conscious of the hungry stares of the other men skimming her body.
The only words she understood when her mind traveled to her own little world were drugs and guns- she didn’t care about the rest. She knew Byun Baekhyun was the heir to an underground empire which controlled the traffic of weaponry, drugs and the distribution of special services which often involved one of the previous – or both.
He was Byun Jinhyuk’s son, a man with a determination as solid as iron who had arisen the empire from the dust coating the dark alleyways and now controlled with an iron fist the world that had dared to treat him badly. For a reason Lara still couldn’t comprehend, Baekhyun had ended up in the Catacombs as another abandoned child. But now Lara had a better idea about his whereabouts when he vanished.
She grunted in pain when she got up form the floor to discover the clock on the wall read five o’clock.
“” she whispered, “I’m late.”
She had to run, take a shower and get dressed before the makeup lady came and, frankly, having a shower in the Catacombs was one of her least favorite things. Even if the shower in her own private bathroom was a neat crystal space with black mate tiles. She needed some time to do it at her own pace, not with Baekhyun’s schedule and her uncomfortable memories breathing down her neck.
She exited the practice room drenched in sweat and still panting and rushed to her room. She entered the code on the digital lock and exhaled all her tensions with her eyes shut when the door was closed, cold behind her back.
“Damn you Byun Baekhyun” she spat
But when she opened her eyes her heart flew to . She had been so immersed in her frustrations and the stench of her own sweat, she hadn’t noticed the intoxicating cologne that floated in the air. Until she saw Baekhyun staring at her with a raised eyebrow and his elbows on his knees. It was four minutes past five and Byun Baekhyun was already fully dressed.
“I didn’t know you felt so much...” he stared at the tips of his fingers while he fidgeted “admiration for me”
Lara didn’t even bother to reply to his dull sarcasm. She had spent one week and two days in the Catacombs, night after night going out with Baekhyun to his stupid business appointments. He didn’t seem too eager to talk, either. They both knew they would end up fighting and they neither of them was ready for that.
“What are you doing here?”
“Joohyun won’t come today to do your makeup. Go shower, we’ll talk when you’re ready”
“Right” she sighed softly, “it’s always as boss wants”
Baekhyun simply sighed and gave her a bag with a silver satin dress and the highest heels she had ever seen. She still didn’t understand how the hell she was supposed to walk on a sharp needle lined with black patent leather. Lara snatched the bag harshly and locked herself on the bathroom.
She took her clothes off slowly, her gaze always on the shower, feeling it staring back at her. Before she entered, she checked the door: it was correctly locked. She assured herself that if anything were to happen, Baekhyun was there. But the second her fingers touched the cold metal, she remembered that was not the sweet Baek she knew, she couldn’t be sure that he would protect her once again.
She knew her fears were meaningless, that the shower wouldn’t eat her and that nobody could enter the bathroom – the door was locked and Baekhyun was outside. Right, Baekhyun would protect her. He always had. That’s why he was there.
She took a deep breath and let the water flow. A stream of icy water cascaded over her shoulders. The sharp drops jabbed her skin like knives. She covered herself instinctively, biting her lower lip hard not to whimper in pain.
Then came the sticky feeling of the warm water and with it the ghost of a pair of greasy lips dragging up and down the skin of her neck, until they found a soft spot and she felt sharp teeth digging on her skin. She shrieked and shut the water flow with a slap that stung her own skin.
With her eyes closer, she assured herself again and again that it wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.
Outside the bathroom, Baekhyun had heard Lara’s shriek. He bumped his fist on the door and asked her if she was okay. The sound of his soft voice brought her back to reality.
Lara pushed her damp hair off her face and breathed in deeply twice before answering with a soft whisper that she was okay. She didn’t realize the evident tremble in her voice nor that her nails - that had dug into the skin of her neck to rid her of the disgusting feeling - were now tainted with blood.
Hello my lovely readers!
I know I wasn't supposed to update until I finished my exams (by mid July, kill me please) but inspiration has been kind to me these last days,
though it came at night time and I ended up going to bed by four in the morning to wake up at six.
Lara is finally out of the hospital and she has discovered who the boss is. Also, she has some trauma with the showers, can you guess what happened to her? Things will start to move from here on, I hope you enjoy this chapter and please let me know what you think in the comments, it would really mean a lot to me. Just to know I'm doing something right hehehe....
Bye for now!