“What’s your name?” she questioned.
“I’m Clair. I’m sorry I got you in this mess. I’ve had a rough day… well actually, my whole year’s been rough, but that’s another story. The last place I want to be right now is the hospital, you know?”
“Sure. I’ve had some bad years myself, so don’t worry about it.” He pointed to her face, “You better sit down and hold your head back.”
“Why?” Clair asked, confused.
“Your nose is bleeding.”
She held her hand up to her nose and when she pulled it down, blood covered her hand. Clair stumbled backwards again; eyes closed, and slumped down to the ground. Alex caught her before she hit the concrete and laid her back against the sidewalk. He crouched beside her, lightly tapping her on the cheek.
Clair opened her eyes and looked at him. “Damn it! I passed out, didn’t I? Like I can’t embarrass myself anymore than I already have.”
“Yeah, you did. But it was only for like five seconds, so it hardly counts.”
Clair laughed and he was glad to see she didn’t take everything so seriously. But looking at her, Alex thought she looked pale. He needed to get her to a doctor just to make sure she didn’t have a concussion or anything else he couldn’t see with his eyes. “You don’t look so good though. I think we better get you to the hospital.”
“No, I really feel fine, I swear I do.”
“Uh-huh, sure. I’m not leaving you here alone. Let me take you to the hospital, or at least to my house. I live right around the corner and you can clean up there.”
“Umm, I don’t think that would be a good idea. No offense, but I don’t even know you,” Clair said, looking skeptical.
“If it makes you feel better, take my cell phone. Keep it until you get ready to leave. If you feel threatened, call the police.” He took his phone out of his pocket and handed it to her.
She looked at him, unconvinced, but took his phone anyway. “I don’t think a phone is going to help if you decide to overpower me.”
Alex chuckled, “You’re probably right, but if I wanted to hurt you, I could have already. So you have three options: I take you to the hospital; walk you to where you need to go; or I’ll just call the police and file a report.”
“Fine. I’ll go… to your house,” she acquiesced, “But I’m keeping this, just in case.” Clair waved the phone in front of him before cramming it in her pocket.
“Whatever makes you feel comfortable; I’m just trying to help.” Alex stood and held his hand out to her again. “Do you think you can stand…without passing out this time?” he teased.
She held out her hand. Alex took it and pulled her gently to her feet, ready to catch her if she fell again. Stepping closer, he waited for Clair to get her bearings before he started to lead her to his apartment. She stopped moving when he attempted to walk. She looked at him, her brow creased with apprehension. He gave her a small comforting smile, “I promise you can trust me. I’ll never hurt you.”
Clair started walking. She looked across the street. “Do you think they’re still around? They didn’t seem like the type to be scared off.”
“Nah, I doubt it. They thought I called the police. I’ll bet anything they are long gone now.”
“I suppose it’s my own fault. I was at the diner up the way earlier and they were in there, acting stupid, making passes at me. I was relieved when they left before I did, but I should have been more careful. I didn’t even realize they were behind me until it was too late.”
Alex stopped. He looked at her thoughtfully. He rubbed his thumb across her hand, trying to comfort her. “You could have been more alert, but you didn’t ask to be assaulted. Don’t blame yourself.”
Clair shook her head. “No, I’ve seen a lot since I’ve been on the… well, I’ve seen a lot. I should have known better. I shouldn’t have let my guard down. That’s been a big rule of mine for the last year or so. It’s easy to get your heart broken or your shoes stolen.”