I nearly died.
The day started as any other work day would; I opened the shop, I helped customers make wise lingerie purchases and I followed the general routine of a work day.
Saturday; market day in the centre where I work as a sales assistant in a high-end lingerie boutique. The centre was buzzing with eager shoppers until the hour all sales assistants who work in that centre dread. Once two o’ clock comes and the market finishes for the week the mall gets dreadfully quiet.
It was approximately 16:30 and there were no customers in sight. A tall, well-dressed man entered the store while I was in the store room making tea. I did not hear him enter the store and he was almost all the way to the back of the shop when I saw him and offered assistance.
He told me he was looking for lingerie for his girlfriend; a set, preferably. I spent what felt like an eternity trying to help him find the perfect set but he seemed uninterested in everything I showed him. Feeling slightly frustrated and helpless, I headed towards the store room to fetch other stock to show him. I don’t remember this part but I was told that he grabbed me around my neck and placed his hand over my mouth to keep me from screaming. I only remember feeling numb and helpless.
The next thing I remember was being cornered in the store room and punching his face and struggling to the point that two of my nails chipped from how I dug them into his skin. The space in the store room is already tiny but with the suspense and fear in the air the room seemed to constrict around me. He handed me a garment which was on the railing in the store room and instructed me to put it in my mouth. My refusal angered him and he forced the garment into my mouth. I was terrified. I was nearly sure I would either be raped or murdered, possibly both, but I was not ready to give up on my dignity or my life. At this point I bit his hand. As much as I am glad I defended myself the situation escalated as he pulled out a large knife and told me he was going to kill me because I was not co-operating.
He took another garment from the rail and proceeded to attempt to tie it around my wrists. He was in the process of tying my wrists when I noticed he had put the knife down on the counter next to me. As passive as I am, I used my free hand and grabbed the knife. He retrieved it quickly but I must have injured him as he bled all over the store including two of my bags.
He was furious but I was not going to give up. All I could think of was what- and who I would be leaving behind if I did not make it out of that store room. He made me sit on the floor so that he could tie my ankles up with a third garment he retrieved from the store room railing. My attacker rummaged through my handbag. My purse was one of his first interests and I remember saying to him, “Good luck with that, you idiot. I never carry cash.” He was really on the hunt for the keys to the till (which I didn’t have) and my cellphone.
I lied and told him I didn’t have my phone when in reality it was in my coat pocket and I remember praying that he wouldn’t feel it in my pocket while he pinned me to the counter. Once he left the store room and locked me in there I hid my phone under the fridge out of fear that he would find it. He didn’t tie my hands up very well so I managed to free myself from my restraints. The first thing I did was phone my mother. I still feared he was in the shop so all I said was, “Mom, help!” before hanging up the phone in a panic.
I heard the magnetic alarms at the door go off at that point so I assumed he had left. I remained helpless on the floor for about five more minutes out of fear of him coming back. Once I felt like it was safe to make a phone call I attempted to get hold of my colleague to unlock the store room door which was locked from the outside but I had no luck getting hold of him. I phoned my mother back and she initially thought I was just trying to get her to the store. I eventually tearfully asked, “Mom, did you not just hear what I told you?” Once she realised I was serious she phoned one of the other shops in the centre to come open the door for me. At this point I had Googled the number for centre management and they sent centre security to my aid.
I was set free to a major seen. A guy who works in one of the other stores in the centre was accompanied by two of my colleagues and three security guards. The adrenalin was still running high through my veins and I instinctively told everyone I was fine and attempted to help security get the footage off our security cameras but as soon as my mother arrived I broke down and I could not compose myself.
I was lucky that I was not majorly injured. Physically, other than my lips being damaged and a giant bruise on my left leg I am fine. Emotionally, I am still struggling.
As someone who is normally very independent I find it difficult that I am now unable to be alone for very long. I am seeing a psychologist and I hope to improve on that soon. I have the most amazing friends and family in the entire world and I am sure their support will influence the rate of my recovery immensely.
My near- death experience was certainly unpleasant but in the process it has taught me to appreciate every moment of my life because it could end at any moment and it has also taught me to appreciate the wonderful people in my life. If I had died on Saturday without telling my friends and family how much I love them I wonder if they would know how much they mean to me.
They are important and I am never going to take them- or life for granted again.