October 3, 2007
By Anna Goodman, Scottsdale, AZ

He blows a thick ring of smoke at my face and I feel it burning my lungs. When he smiles at me, the right side of his lip curves up and the left side of his mouth hangs open revealing his perfect, blinding teeth that seem to glow in the dark of this night. It is more of a smug look than a happy one. I hate being around him, I hang on his every word, shiver at his every touch. His being, his aura, seem to take over my body and wring me dry of everything I am worth. He strips me of everything, my individuality, my ability to think, my common sense. He is taking over my life. It is a horrific dichotomy. I love every minute spent with him as much as I loathe it. “Tonight will be something you will never forget” he tells me with that gleam he often has in his eyes. People have warned me about him, but how can I listen? He is my drug, and I’m long past addicted. We lay in the grass under the stars. My head rests on his chest and I can hear his heart pounding through his thin t-shirt. “What are we going to do?” I ask foolishly. “I’ve been planning this forever,” he explains. And then orders me, “Get in the car.” I obey, as I always do. He climbs in the driver’s seat and starts the engine. The world seems to blur around me as he speeds the car in and out of lanes as if he doesn’t care for his own life, much less mine. I don’t say anything, I never do. With one wrong move I could lose his interest. We drive for what feels like hours, and he speaks hardly any words to me. Suddenly the car jolts to a stop. My heart speeds up, but then I realize that we are parked in front of a shopping mall. I look at him, smile, and give him a puzzled look, because the mall is long passed closing. He starts laughing, and I get goose bumps just from the sound of it. I don’t bother questioning why we are here. “Here’s what you are going to do,” he says taking a deep breath, “You are going to get out of the car, climb those stairs,” he pauses to light another cigarette. It is silent and all I can hear is the pounding of my heart and the flickering of his lighter. He throws the lighter down and continues. “My friend Jesse is a security guard that works this shift, your going to go knock on the door, he will answer, he is waiting for you. You’ll take what he gives you and then walk slowly, calmly back to my car.” He pauses to take another puff out of his cigarette. He puts his hand on my leg and smiles at me. “Whatever you do, you are not to mention this to anyone. And if you should get caught,” he laughs, blows his smoke in my face and says, “If you get caught, then that sucks.” I almost have to pick my jaw up off of the ground. I sit there, frozen in utter disbelief and shock. I do not know what he is making me retrieve; I do not want to know. Deep down, in the depths of my pathetic self I know that he is purely using me but that does not stop me. I will do whatever it takes to win his approval. As if someone else has come in and inhabited my body, I open the door and step out of the car. My body is numb and my heart is pounding. I walk up three flights of stairs and each one seems to be longer than the last. I reach the door and tap it with my fingers. I am expecting a young attractive looking man but am startled when a small elderly figure in uniform shows up at the door smiling. He unlocks it, puts a hand on my arm, chuckles and says to me, “He was right when he told me how pretty you are.” I couldn’t help but smile. He thinks I’m pretty. “Come in,” he says. I walk in cautiously as though the floor could crumble beneath me at any second. He hands me a suitcase. Millions of questions start flooding into my mind. “Now go,” he orders. “Be careful.” I stride out the door and into the cool, dark night. The car is no where to be seen. I see flashing lights and hear a siren in the distance. My mind is racing, my heart pounding, I jump into the bushes along with the suitcase. The flashing lights grow closer and closer, and suddenly are merely a few feet in front of where I am crouching. I hear dark, frightening voices yelling. They are looking for something, someone. Is it me? Is it what is in my hand? I should be mad at him, I should hate him. But how can I? I need to get out of here, so I squeeze out of the bushes cautiously, silently. I think I am safe, so clutching the suitcase; I stand up, but my body collides with another. It is a man, a large man; he’s wearing a black uniform and a badge. I start to run but my legs are numb. He spins around, his eyes wide. His flashlight blinds me. “Freeze,” he says.

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