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I become aware of the sound of tires screeching to a stop.
I’m cold even thorough it’s the middle of June.
Vague images shoot through my mind, reminding me. It’s my nineteenth birthday party; or at least it was. I was staying with my boyfriend because I have no parents. He told me he was taking me too a club to celebrate. We didn’t get there. He took me to a motel instead. I fought and ran; barely escaping.
Legs are walking towards me. Why are they sideways? I am lying on a metal bench, that’s why.
The legs get closer. I freak. Has Brian come looking for me?
A hand softly brushes me bare shoulder. The hand is warm and gentle. Not Brian. I relax, a little at least. “Miss?” asks the voice. It’s male. “Are you okay?”
No, I am not okay! My brain screams. “I’m cold,” I mumble. Fabric rustles.
“Here,” says the soft voice. A jacket appears in front of me. I try to reach for it. Pain grips my side. Gasping for breath I fall to the ground. “Oh, God!” he exclaims. Strong hands attached to stronger arms pick me up. The jacket gets draped over me. As he starts to walk, the pain worsens. I moan. I can see the black walls advancing from the corners of my eyes.
“Just hold on a little longer,” he says with urgency in his medium-deep voice. He is a young man. I here a car door open and soon an engine starts.
I realize that I am in a car, and its going fast. “I’m taking you to the hospital. What happened?” I grunt with effort as I turn my eyes to the source of the soft voice.
“Who are you?” It’s barely a whisper, but he hears me.
“My name is John Hale.” John Hale is very handsome.
“Rachel Samson,” I whimper. I’m fighting to stay awake; I’m so exhausted from running. When was I running?
“Rachel, why were you lying on a metal park bench in the middle of the night?”
“So tired; I had to stop running.” Something clicks in my brain. Brian. I was running from Brian. He wanted to use me! I flush with anger. I am glad that John is driving, so he can’t see my anger. I am not angry at him and I do not want him to think so.
Did he get his chance? “No,” I assure myself out loud.
“What?” asks my savior.
“I didn’t let him use me. I fought, I escaped, and I ran.” I set my jaw with certainty. “I saved myself.”
“From whom?” he asks with obvious concern. “A boyfriend?” he guesses.
“Yes; Brian.” A tear runs down my face.
“She was very lucky,” a nurse assures a stressed-looking John Hale. “She wasn’t raped, and got out with no broken bones; just some major and minor bruises that should heal within the month.”
“Can I leave?” I plead quietly. I hate hospitals.
“Sure,” she says with a smile filled with pity and then leaves to tend to other patients in the emergency room.
“So, where’s your house?” he asks. I burst into tears; great.
“Let me get this straight,” whispers John. “You turned eighteen and aged out of the adoption system. Then you moved in with Brian, your boyfriend. Then a year later he beats you up and you end up on a metal park bench homeless with no relatives.”
“Yep.” I wince as a stair creaks under me. We are sneaking up to his room.
“And so now you are going to stay with me. Right?” he whispers expectantly.
“That’s what you told me at the hospital after I stopped crying,” I whisper back. This makes him smile. I love that smile. I grin back at him with swollen lips. He closes his door behind us and throws me a pair of sweats far too big for me. “Um, I’d bet that you would like to get changed out of that dress,” he says as he gestures to my torn party outfit. He eyes me nervously. “I’ll go into the bathroom and give you some privacy. “Thank you,” I say to his back as he turns to his bathroom door. I’m blushing.
I leave my dress at the foot of the bed and put on the sweats. They’re so soft. I gently knock quietly on the bathroom door. He opens the door and smiles.
“They’re a little big,” I whisper as I hike up the pants. His smile gets even bigger as he holds back laughter.
“You take the bed, I’ll take the floor.” He says simply and quietly as he takes a pillow off of the bed and lies down on the carpet. I snuggle under the covers.
“Thank you, for everything tonight.”
“Rachel, can I ask you one more thing?” he asks tentatively.
“Why were you all dressed up?” I hesitate to answer him. “If it’s too personal that’s okay.”
“No,” I reassure him. “Um, today is my nineteenth birthday.”
The next morning I woke to a woman yelling at John Hale, my savior. “What are you doing sleeping on the floor? It’s almost noon and your still out!” she screams. I can’t see her; my head is under the covers.
“Sorry, mom,” John mumbles sleepily. At the sound of his voice I raise my head out from under the blankets.
At the sight of me, his mom starts screaming louder. “Who is this?!” She yanks me up by the shoulder. “What are you doing with a little skank like this?!” In an instant he’s up.
“She is not a skank! Her name is Rachel!” he bellows.
“Well,” she says as she starts to drag me out; her lips tight. “Rachel would you please leave; thank you.” She opens the bedroom door and begins to pull me out. I cling to the door frame, not wanting to leave the safety John Hale brings me. Suddenly, strong arms wrap around my waist and pull me back. Those strong, strong arms stayed there; holding, protecting, and loving me.
“She stays with me as long as she wants!” he says with a power in his voice that stuns his mother. She backs out and shuts the door. “Do you want to stay with me?” he asks, softly that the contrast in his tones momentarily puzzles my brain.
I turn to face him. My hands wrap around his shoulders. “Yes, thank you,” I reply.
As my brain reviews this, I realize that I’ve been at his house a very long time. I have been happy the whole time too. That’s impossible. It must be a dream. My brain keeps mind just keeps going through this thought. It hopes that it’s not true, but it also knows that I’ve never been this happy except in dreams.
I open my eyes. John Hale isn’t on the floor next to the bed like the dream says he is. I lay back expecting to feel a pillow below my head. Instead I hit a muscled shoulder. I look up and see my savior looking back at me. He’s holding my left hand; it has a diamond ring on the third finger.
A smile spreads across his face. I love that smile. “Good morning Rachel.”
I smile back and realize that the best dreams are the ones that turn out to be real.