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When Blood Runs Cold
I feel my hands grasp tightly around the gun. I’m not even sure I know how to use it correctly, but what I do know is that it’s my only way of saving Brooke.
I cautiously step towards the man, woman, coward, hiding behind the mask, standing over Brooke’s almost lifeless body. As I do, the knife positioned around Brooke’s throat inches closer to her pale skin.
“I played your game,” I feel my voice quiver with anxiety. “Now, show me who you are.”
I had noticed Brooke’s absence in third period, during science class. There was an empty chair next to me, that had been that way for over 2 days. I try to stay positive, but I begin to doubt my own beliefs that she is alright. We met in the second grade, when her family moved to Las Vegas from Michigan. We told each other everything, but telling her about my dad seemed almost impossible at the time.
My dad, Sebastian Wentworth, is an alcoholic. I don’t have many memories of him; he left when I was just seven years old. I never really appreciated him until it was too late. My mom banished him from our house, with no explanation, confusing me at the time. Nowadays, we still don’t talk about it.
Brooke was my outlet. She brought a sense of danger into my life, making me feel like I could touch the sky. Together, we could do anything. Everything was okay, everything was good--until she disappeared.
Home Ec. Carlos, an extremely annoying, often jealous individual with thick black hair calls to me. “Hey, Ashley,” I quickly turn to my right to face him.
“Seen Brooke recently? I’m starting to get very worried.” His buddies laugh, cowardly crossing their arms behind him.
Typical. I disregard the sarcastic comment. and head to my seat. I feel a buzzing run up through my leg, and I surreptitiously reach for my phone. Making sure to not seem too obvious to Mrs. Clem, I undo the passcode and am taken into my text messages.
What I see next makes my blood run cold.
There, in the chat, is a picture of Brooke, collapsed into a chair. A strip of duct tape is stretched across her face, blocking her from speaking. Her stare goes right through me. Her hands are tied, feet together.
Tell anyone about this, you won’t see her again. Play my game, and you might get her back. The words rush through me like ice cold water. Before I even understand, my fingers are typing away.
If this is some sort of sick joke, it’s not funny. Where’s Brooke?
I get a response within seconds, almost as if this person knew what I was about to say.
It’s not a joke. If you ever want to see Brooke again, play by my game.
What game? What could this psycho possibly mean? I don’t respond to the message until I’m safely locked behind the stall door in the girl’s bathroom.
What’s your “game”? I try to seem as intrepid as I possibly can.
Glad you’re deciding to play along. Do as I say, and you’ll get your friend back.
I reread the entire chat that this psychopath and I are having. Obviously, whoever this person is, they’re not messing around.
What’s the point of this? I’m on the edge of the toilet seat, waiting for the response.
To make you miserable.
I stare at the words on the screen for so long my contacts become dry. Is this something Carlos and his friends are having a good-old laugh about?
I don’t receive another message until I’m in the cafeteria, staring at the polished wooden table. I feel the once exciting vibration of my text-tone run up through my leg.
Trip Veronica Goldberg.
It’s from him. Her. It. Whatever this is, I know I need to obey the command.
I was never a mean girl. But as Veronica Goldberg slides her feet across the floor, lunch tray in hand, I stick out my foot. Her shiny, black curls flail through the air as her the lunch tray slams on the ground. It doesn’t take long before she joins it. I feel the instant heat rise to my face. She knows it was me. She has to. As for everyone else? Not a clue. I shamefully look away, refusing to meet her glare.
And that’s when I hear the laughter. The humiliation, and it’s all because of me. Veronica gathers up what’s left of her lunch, and as she runs away from the roaring crowd, I feel her stare burn into the back of my neck. I guiltily glimpse at Veronica, sitting by her friends. I’m faced with shameful glares.
This isn’t the last of the painful tasks. Little did I know, I would be forced to start multiple rumors about innocent people, sneak out of my house late at night to spray paint on the outdoor walls of Dayton High, and be extremely rude to my mother.
My mother and I always had a close bond. We told each other everything; other than Brooke, she was my best friend. She meant the world to me, and after my dad was kicked out, I realized just how much I meant to her. Her seeing me like this--absolutely miserable--really took a toll on her life as well. She constantly asked me what was wrong, returning to the unfortunate frown that was her new resting face. I decide to take matters into my own hands.
I won’t do this anymore. Give Brooke back. I see the dreadful dots appear on the screen, indicating the person is typing a response.
Meet us at the Brookside Theater on Venway Ave. at 3 AM. Go alone.
The following hours are never-ending. I sit on my bed, my digital alarm clock blinking red at me. The thought comes to me instantly--the gun under the floorboard. Once my dad was kicked out of our house, my mom purchased the gun, just to make sure we’d always be safe. It was just a small pistol, but it would work as self-defense. I creep past my bedroom door, tiptoeing down the hall to the floorboards. I kneel down in the dim light, and retrieve the fourth plank from its home. Underneath I find the pistol. My watch reads 2:32 AM. The theater takes approximately twenty minutes from my house. My dad used to take me there when I was little; he knew how much I enjoyed The Little Mermaid. I cautiously close the front door of my house, surprisingly cold in my green parka, and hop into the blue Mercedes.
I arrive at the Brookside Theater, memories flooding my mind, but I disregard them. I need to find Brooke. The front door to the theater is ominously wide open, and I slip through it. I see the door behind the front desk, leading to the theater. It’s open. I clutch the gun in my jacket, feeling safe with it. My ringtone almost gives me a heart attack as I cower into the massive room.
On the stage.
I gaze out onto the stage. Brooke is sitting in the center, head lolled to the side. Her hands are tied behind her, and her blonde hair is knotted. I pick my jaw up off the ground and run towards the stage. As I frantically climb up the stairs, her eyes open, and I see relief flood her face. The relief turns to sheer terror as I begin to walk towards her. She’s staring at something behind me, making horrified squeals behind the strip of duct tape.
I immediately swerve behind me, and on the stairs, I see a figure, covered by a mask. The mask is horrifying, but I don’t show my fear. I stare at the person, and they make a determined bolt towards Brooke, past me. Brooke squeals even louder as the figure retrieves a shining knife from its black cloak pocket, putting it against her neck. I grab the gun from my jacket, and point it directly at the figure.
They’re surprised, taken aback by the sudden competition. The mask is tilted to the side, with Brooke shivering beneath it. I take a step toward the figure, grasping the gun. I’m not even sure I know how to use it correctly, but it’s my only way of saving Brooke. “I played your game,” I feel my voice quiver with anxiety. “Now, show me who you are.”
The knife around Brooke’s throat drops to the ground with a piercing clang. A single hand is raised towards the terrifying mask, and it is slowly taken off.
The person behind the mask, is my own father. There’s a sickening smirk on his face; he’s feeding off of the horror on mine. The heavy bags under his eyes indicate endless nights of tossing and turning. The brown hair upon his head that was once slicked back is now messy, and falls flat.
“Ashley,” he whispers, with the smirk still on his face.
“Sebastian,” I manage to get out. He’s not my father. I don’t recognize this monster. I keep the gun where it is.
“Allow me to explain. Please put the gun down,” he has the courage to muster, walking towards me at a steady pace.
I do as he says. Slowly.
“I never wanted to hurt you or Brooke. It was something I had to do.”
I chuckle, “And you expect me to believe that?” I’m surprised by my own confrontation.
“Your mother didn’t tell you the full story, I’m guessing,” he follows my stare.
“What story? That you got drunk, and ruined our family?” I glance at Brooke, watching us.
“Do you know why I did what I did?” he waits for me to shake my head, “your mother was having an affair, Ashley. She was cheating on me. I wasn’t good enough for her, and it broke my heart. She’s been lying to you for ten years.”
I try not to think about what he just drilled into my brain, “That still doesn’t explain why you kidnapped Brooke, and made my life absolutely miserable. What did I ever do to you? What did Brooke ever do?” I was yelling at this point.
“I did this to make your mother miserable, which involved making you miserable. I know you’re the most important thing to her, even above herself. If you were depressed, upset, I knew it would destroy her. I’m sorry, Ash.”
“You sure don’t sound it,” I spit at him. I make a beeline for Brooke, untying the rope from her cold hands and feet. My father just stands there, seeming to admit the fact that he lost at his own game. I take Brooke’s hand in mine, and bolt down the stairs on the side of the stage. This surprises her, and my dad, and he begins to run after us.
“Ash! Please! Don’t go!”
I sprint with Brooke trailing behind me all the way to my car, and once she’s safe and sound in the passenger’s seat, I lock the doors. As I speed out of the avenue, I see my dad galloping after us, obviously refusing to give up. We’re no match for him, and soon, we’re on the freeway, out of sight.
“Ashley?” Brooke nudges my shoulder.
“Yeah?” I glance at her, hands on the wheel, expecting praise.
“There weren’t any bullets in this gun.”