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The Red Telephone Booth
As I walk down the street from school, my warm breath makes little puffs of fog. Winter in London is harsh, and the wind is bitterly cold. Brrrr, I think as snow starts to fall lazily down from the gathering clouds. It’s cold out here. The sky is dark and menacing, and everything around me is gray, gray, gray—well, except for the telephone booths. The familiar, cheery, cherry-red boxes greet me on every block, standing out among the gray land. I shrug my soft fur coat around me tighter as I turn onto my street. I can see the welcoming glow of the windows of my home, when suddenly I am knocked off of my feet, my head hitting the pavement. What just happened? I wonder, struggling to rise. My body won’t cooperate with me. It feels like all of my limbs are frozen to the ground, refusing to budge, heavy as cinderblocks. I start to panic. My vision goes blurry and I hear myself scream. The last thing I see is a tall man in a brown leather jacket grasping a brick and whacking me sharply on my temple. Then the soft flurries of snow and the gray expanse of sky above me fades away.
I have strange nightmares that seem to last forever. Nightmares about my parents, my friends—my dreams run wild. I wake with a start to find myself in what looks to be an abandoned shed in someone’s backyard. Judging by the calendar on the wall, I’ve been out for a few days. I shake my head. Then I hear whispering, so I know I’m not alone. I struggle to tune into the raspy conversation.
“Just leave her there. She’s not going to bleed to death. I already examined her head—I didn’t make that big of a gash.”
My tied hands go to my forehead and I pull them away bloody. Hot tears fill my eyes as I try to keep myself tuned in to what they’re saying.
“Well, while she’s knocked out, we better start scouting the area for a better hideout.”
The other man grunts in agreement and they start to rise into view. I quickly flutter my eyes closed to look like I’m still passed out, but not fast enough. “She’s awake,” he said, coming very close to me. I am stupefied by their lack of morality and it makes me sick. “I saw those pretty blue eyes.” He chuckles.
I would retort something nasty, but I can’t with this gag in my mouth, so I give him a cold glare. The man in the leather jacket wets a cloth and starts wringing it out, wiping the blood from my forehead. “There,” he says, approvingly, “you actually have a pretty face, too.” He laughs as I start uttering frantically through my gag. I try calling for help, screaming, anything. Something to draw attention. But my voice sounds more like an animal wailing than a fifteen-year-old girl’s scream. It’s no use anyway—there’s no one out here.
“Come on, Charles, let’s leave her be. She won’t go anywhere,” I hear one of the men say. I lower my head in submission and hot, wet tears roll down my bloody cheeks. As soon as they leave the shed, I start frantically pulling at my bonds. But instead of loosening, they become tighter. I let out an unearthly, exasperated cry, flailing around on the ground in desperation.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spot an old saw blade in the corner of the shed. Slowly and carefully, I inch my way over to it by crawling on the rough, wooden floor. Once I reach it, I quickly start working the ropes off. In my hurry, I slice my hand and smother a yelp of pain. Just get them off, I tell myself. Then you can run far away from here. I hear the ropes on my wrists snap and I repeat with the ropes around my ankles. Once they’ve broken, I untie my gag, gulping in a cold breath of musty air. I look outside cautiously, and although the two men are out of sight, I hear their gruff voices in the woods. I stumble weakly to the road, watching the world spin around me. The bleak sky intermingles with the snow and gives the illusion of a large white sheet covering the earth. I struggle to go straight as the blood from my head wound runs across my face. My head throbs as I run. Don’t look back.
But I soon realize I have no idea where I’m going. The blizzard rages and everything is uniformly white. I can’t see two feet ahead of me. Or can I? It’s hard to judge distance in this thick storm. I start to panic, I feel so dizzy. The blood from my sliced hand spurts out, turning the snow before me a nasty red. I also seem to see something red ahead of me, cutting through the curtain. I rub my eyes thinking that there’s just some blood in them. But I still see the red dot. I’m hallucinating, I think.
After another five minutes, I decide to give up, but I’m confused by another flash of red. I walk closer, examining what looks to be a red box now. Wait—is that what I think it is? My heart leaps as I realize what’s ahead of me. It’s a telephone booth! All of a sudden another one is revealed to me, this one even closer. I am filled with hope as I approach it. I know where I am. The warmth and comfort of something familiar and dear surrounds me and blocks the chill of the weather. I rush to it and climb inside its wooden frame, frantically searching the pockets of my cotton dress for change. My heart sinks as I realize I have none. I pick up the phone, expecting to hear a dial tone, but instead I hear silence. This means there’s still time left on the machine! Someone must’ve put in an excessive amount of money, so I frantically punch numbers in. I hear a familiar voice. “Hello?”
“Mom, it’s me,” I say, willing my heartbeat to slow down. “I’m here. I’m safe.”