I heard the footsteps behind me as I passed the library. Did he spot me and follow on the spur of the moment or was it planned? Looking back I suspect the former. I could see the path through the trees just ahead, a short cut through the garden to avoid the long, winding driveway. The street lights were obscured by the leaves, but I knew that I was close to safety. I hurried on.
I shouldn’t have been walking to the party alone, except I met an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. When the rest left the pub I stayed on to chat, even though this annoyed my boyfriend, the host. The house was only a few hundred yards down the road. I would catch them up in due course.
Despite the advice it would seem that we cannot plan for such situations. I carried a screech alarm in my pocket, I had trained in rudimentary martial arts, self defence. Yet when he grabbed me from behind I simply fell to the ground, curled up, foetal position. I knew that I had to scream, but the noise would not come out. I made feeble croaks, hoarse and empty. I tried and tried, did not understand, why could I not scream?
I suspect that he had not expected my collapse, that it wrong footed him. The knife he had held to my throat left a thin, red line of blood but it was shallow, a scratch. I was a few seconds on the ground before I realised that he had turned and fled. Looking round I saw the back of him as he darted away through the library grounds.
I scrambled to my feet and stumbled up the path towards the house. For once I understood those annoying females in the movies, who fall over so unnecessarily when trying to run away from danger. The hero must risk life and limb to perform a rescue when so much trouble could be avoided if the woman could be less irritatingly inept.
Yet there I was, as inept as any, my legs refusing to function as they should. I was telling them to run yet they splayed and shook, traversing the few yards required with difficulty.
Up the short path, along the side of the house and I made it through the door. Still the words would not form as I wished: ‘man’, ‘attack’, ‘knife’ came out.
Golf clubs were grabbed and the boys went out into the night. ‘Fools’, I thought, ‘You cannot know who he is if I do not’. ‘Will you beat up a random stranger to avenge your own pride at not being there for me?’ I was afraid for the trouble that could be caused if they found him. I prayed that they would not.
I had not wanted the police to be called but nobody listened. A description was given, an identikit created, the picture looked like every off duty young soldier in the land, and there were many from both sides at that time. I was lucky they said. Lucky to be attacked? Should we not expect to be able to walk the streets in safety?
As a child I was afraid of the dark; of the monsters under the bed or in doorways, waiting to grab me if I opened my eyes. The men from films and fairy tales stole children away in the dead of night. I was afraid to leave my bed, afraid of the thin arms and long fingers that would reach out from dark corners and grab at me.
Now I knew that the bogey man existed, that he carried a knife, and that I would not be brave in a crisis.
Perhaps that is why I survived.