The night out had been planned for some time. Cheryl was due to start a new job. Due to start very nearly a new life. She had interviewed and been accepted for long haul cabin crew - something she had wanted to do ever since she was a little girl. Be a trolley dolly - that was what she told everyone she wanted to be. Everyone had laughed and made her cute as for that. Made like she would grow out of it. But it had stayed with her. It was something she was going to do if it killed her. It meant her relocating - but she didn’t mind that. She saw it as her new start. Everything was fair game, lock stock and barrel. She had announced her intentions, mostly via social media and the leaving party - or the leaving ‘night out’ was arranged. She wasn’t a party girl in the truest sense. She liked a good time, liked a laugh, but she liked good food and wine more. So the night was a civilised one. And it was just that. It was time for food and drink and talking. No clubbing for them. It would have been impossible to talk in one of those places. She wanted to say goodbye to each and every one of her friends and she didn’t want ears full of drum and base getting in the way of that.

It had been such a good night. And eventually everyone filtered out of the restaurant and to the pavement outside. That was where they all hugged and cried. That was where they all repeated old jokes for old time’s sakes. That was where the tears flowed and the laughter reigned. And then slowly, ever so slowly they all filtered away. The last of her friends, Julie hugged Cheryl one last time. “You want me to get you a cab? I know it’s not far but better safe than sorry?” If only Cheryl had taken the cab. If only she had thought about it for a second longer. “No, it’s a beautiful night, I’ll be curled up in bed in, what, twenty minutes. I’ll walk, clear my head a bit. Big day tomorrow.” They hugged again and Julie waved one last time and she was gone. None of the friends at that get together would know that it would be the last time they would see or speak to Cheryl. None of them would have a clue that Cheryl wouldn’t get to move. That she wouldn’t get to start her new job or her new life.

As far as everyone was concerned the plan was in operation. In their minds, eventually they would see Cheryl again, maybe in her trolley dolly outfit and they would laugh at that. None of them would know that Cheryl would vanish off the face of the earth. And by the time anyone thought that it was odd they hadn’t heard from her, it wouldn’t matter. They would assume she meant a new start was just that. Never mind all the promises that she would call. That they could come visit. Out of sight and out of mind and all that. That when she had said a new start that was exactly what she meant and had left the rest behind.

She had smiled wide to herself. For the first time in a long time she felt truly happy. She was doing something she’s always wanted to do. The night was lovely. She was looking forward to getting home, getting to bed and waking up to her new start. She had already packed, and she was good to go. She was in no rush to get home though. A nice saunter along a well-lit street. It was late though so there weren’t many people around. And yes she heard the footsteps behind her. If they had been flat footsteps she would have turned around and let the person pass. That would have been her sole show of caution. If the steps were flatfooted then it would more than likely be a guy. But for some reason, she had assumed that it was heels that she heard. It could have been. She wasn’t worried. But then the oddest thing. The chill to the core of her spine as she felt that needle sink into her neck. She couldn’t work it out first. None of it. It was like something so unexpected, so out of context happening that her mind couldn’t wrap itself around what was happening. But then she started to go dead from the neck down and she could feel her face change. Like a shadow come over it. That arm wrapping around her and then her needing to be supported. Her mind had struggled - it had struggled badly. She didn’t know it but shock as well as paralysis had set in. The rest was a blur. The thoughts of being murdered, or worse, filtering in and out of her subconscious. The thoughts of someone helping her - that she had taken ill and there was someone there to help her thank god. From one extreme to the other, dizzy, fuzzing thoughts that when taken as a whole didn’t make sense.