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Nina Stage, a girl who is wanted by every boy who sees her, cannot shake the feeling of ALWAYS being followed. From school to her own home, Nina has had a feeling of having someone follow her. At first she thought it was just another boy wanting to go out with her. But one day had marked off that possibility.
She was walking home one day, the afternoon air was sticky and hot. The wind blew her purple highlighted brown curls all around her. She felt the need to turn around.
"Who’s there?" she asked, stopping cold.
No one answered. Her pale blue eyes widened in fear.
Still no one.
"You better answer me!”
She was a beautiful girl, but people knew she meant business. Just then, what had been following her slithered out of her neighbor’s bushes. You may think that a snake had been following her, your wrong. It was, in fact, a person. But this person was dark, and looked evil.
"Who are you? Leave me alone!" she screamed, and ran into the safe haven that was her home.
"MOM! DAD! I'M HOOOOOOME!"
No one. Oh, she thought, I forgot. They're gone. In Alaska. And they left me here, alone in Miami, Florida. There was a knock on the front door. When she opened it, it was only Brad Sagger, the football Quarterback, and her best friend’s brother.
"What do you want, loser?" She spit.
"Hey Nina! Just wondering," Brad started.
"LEAVE," Nina said evenly.
She pointed at the street, hand on her hip.
“AW! Come on Nine!” Brad pleaded, “You never give me a damn chance!”
Nina flinched when Brad cussed.
“Only Sava can call me ‘Nine’. You call me ‘Nina’. Now leave!”
Brad hung his head and began toward the street. Nina slammed the door shut. There was another knock at the door.
"GO AWAY BRAD!"
Savannah was Nina's only good friend. Nina opened the door and ushered Savannah in.
"Brad stalking you again?"
Brad was Savannah's twin brother, so Brad and Nina saw a lot of each other.
"Please stop your idiotic brother, Sava!”
“I’ll try. Nine, but you got to give the guy a chance,” she laughed.
“NOT A CHANCE!!!”
“Sava, will you PLEASE stay with me? I feel like someone, besides Brad, is watching me!”
“And following me home!”
“Okay,” Savannah said, scared about what or who else was stalking Nina.
She had a feeling of who it was, but she refused to tell Nina.
“Thank you. Sava, I am just so scared…” Nina cried.
“Oh! Nine!” Savannah said.
Nina sank to the floor and sat up against the door and cried. Savannah has never seen Nina so upset….Ever.
“Shhhh, its okay Nine.”
“Notifyouthinkbeingstalkedisokay!!!!!!!!” Nina said, munching her words together and trying to say them in between her sobs.
The phone rang. Savannah answered it.
“Is…..Nina…Hope…Sagger….There?” A deep, male voice said from the other end.
“She can’t come to the phone right now. Can I take a message?” Savannah asked, faking sweetness for Nina’s sake.
“By the way, her name is Nina Beth Stage,” Savannah whispered harshly into the phone.
“Yeah….Sure…..Whatever ….Just tell her…” The dial tone was back.
Savannah was scared now too, but she wasn‘t about to show Nina she was. That, and Nina had gradually scooted her way to the phone. She attached herself to Savannah’s leg and held on while she cried, soaking her jeans leg with tears.
“Oh, Nine!” She said, bending down to hug her.
The phone rang again.
“Tell Nina to not go in public by herself. Unless you want her to be hurt and pregnant…Like you were, my dear…“ The voice smiled.
“I am NOT your dear, I’m your damn victim”, Savannah hissed, so low only the voice could hear her.
“Whatever…Just remember, I’m watching…always watching. I have watched since I was released. And don’t forget, I‘m watching you too, SAVANNAH.” The voice said, spitting out her name like it was holy water on a demon, before it hung up again.
Savannah let the phone drop to the floor. Her eyes wide with fear and anger.
“Whats wrong Sava?” Nina asked sniffing, looking up at her paralyzed just-like-an-identical-twin-separated-at-birth best friend.
But it was true. The reason they were friends was because they looked so much alike. Except Savannah had dark hazel eyes while Nina had pale blue. That and the fact that they knew each other ever since they were little kids. Savannah looked down at her, planting a sad smile at her.
“Nothing Nine. Just a wrong number.”
Savannah helped Nina up and brought her shaking friend to the only place with no windows, their only place of hide: the secret room. Nina’s house was full of secrets. When her father built it, Nina snuck away and built a secret room, not even her parents knew it existed. Or so Nina thought.
“In you go,” Savannah said, ushering the shaking Nina in the room.
Nina sank to the floor in the secret room. Savannah found the stashed matches, every time Nina’s parents get matches; the girls steal them and hide them in the room. Savannah found the little oil lamp and lit it. Nina gave a little squeak when Savannah lit it.
“Shhhh. Calm Nina,” she told her, turning on Nina’s favorite thing to hear: the waves crashing on a rocky beach.
Nina and Savannah were rocks, but when they were together, the world was the most beautiful and peaceful meadow. The wild flowers blowing in the wind. The plush clouds rolling past. Savannah sang to Nina, she sang Tim McGraw, the song, not one of his songs, the one by Taylor Swift. Nina sighed and made her way to the secret room’s bed the girls made and laid down.
“Can you sing that again, Sava? Please?” Nina pleaded.
“Sure honey,” Savannah said combing Nina’s hair with her hand as Nina closed her eyes.
Nina thought the she and Sava had no secrets, but they did. Well, Savannah did. What Nina doesn’t know, but Nina’s so-called parents do know, is that the people who Nina thinks is her real mom and dad, are just to make Nina more comfortable. What Nina doesn’t know is that Savannah Sagger is Nina’s real mother. Nina is sixteen years old, and Savannah is only twenty-six. When Savannah was ten, a man raped her. She had a baby, the baby was Nina. Nina could never find out. Savannah looks like a sixteen year old girl, so she pretends to be one while quietly watching after her biological daughter.
“Sava?” Nina asked.
“Nine! I thought you were asleep!”
“I’m sorry. But I have a quick question…”
“What is it?”
“Ummmm….. I was over hearing my parents before they left…”
Savannah always got annoyed when Nina referred to Stan and Febee, Nina’s so-called parents, as her actual parents. But she didn’t want her to think of Dan as her real father either.
“Well, my mom said ‘I’m worried! Do you think Nina should know that we aren’t her parents? Shouldn’t we tell her that her parents aren’t leaving her? But trying to get her actual mother to tell her the truth?’ and my dad said ‘I do think that Savannah should tell Nina the truth. She, and we, have kept this quiet long enough. Savannah should tell her the she is her biological mother.’ So I want to know the truth, were my parents just putting on a show, or are they telling the truth?”
“No Nina, you so-called parents were right. I am your biological mother.”
“But you can’t be! You’re the same age as me!”
“No Nina, I am actually twenty-six. I am your mother.”
“So whats my real name, Sava?”
“Your name is Nina Hope Sagger.”
“Yes, Febee and Stan named you Nina Beth Stage. But I argued to keep your name the way I wanted it to. But it didn’t happen.”
“So how are you my mother?”
Savannah told Nina everything she could tell her.
“So, who is my father?”
“Hon, your father is in jail. He has been ever since.”
Nina looked down at her feet.
“But what is his name?”
“His name is Dan Luther,” Savannah sighed, spitting out the name,” That b*****d.”
Nina covered her ears. Nina never ever cussed, and she didn’t like it when the people around her cussed.
“I’m sorry, dear.”
“I can’t believe you did this……Savannah, why?” Nina said, uncovering her ears.
“You need to learn to call me ‘Mom’ now that you know…”
“I can’t, it doesn’t feel right……”
“Wait! What about your ‘twin brother’ Brad?”
“Brad isn’t actually my brother. He is a kid that my parents adopted…. Not my biological brother. Best thing is that he knows he’s adopted.”
“Oh. But now what happens?”
“When I was on the phone, the man on the other end was…….your father. Apparently he is out of jail…….”
Savannah began to sing Tim McGraw again.
“I hate it when you do that to me….” Nina said as her eyelids closed, failing her.
“That’s how I put you to sleep when you were three,” Savannah whispered.
But Nina didn’t hear her, she was already asleep.
There was a knock at the secret room’s door. Savannah looked through the peep hole. It was Febee and Stan. Savannah opened the door.
“You tell her yet!?!” Febee screamed.
“SHHHH!! She’s sleeping!!” Savannah whispered harshly.
“So you told her?” Febee lowered her voice.
“Are you going to take her home yet?” Stan asked softly.
“Only if she wants to come with me. I’m not going to force my SIXTEEN year old daughter to do anything! I’m just happy I was able to stay and watch her grow up. And thank you, for letting me care for her until she was ten. I know she forgot those years,” Savannah whispered, looking at her Sleeping Beauty of a daughter.
“Yes.” Nina said.
“Nina! Stop scaring me! I’m not sixteen, you know!!”
“Sorry! But yes.”
“Yes? Yes what?”
“Yes I want to come home with you… …Mom.”
“Did you just-?!?”
“Yeah. I’ll learn how to get used to it. But, that explains why I look so much like you……”
Savannah’s lip quivered.
“I love you…Mom.”
“I love you too, Nina!”
Savannah met Nina half way and gave Nina a hug.
“Are you sure you want to come live with me?” She asked Nina, Tears poring down both their faces.
“Yes. I am 150% sure.”
“Well, what about the other 50%?”
“Just like you to add humor to a heartfelt moment Sava-I mean Mom.” Nina said, rolling her tear ridden eyes.
“It’s okay. You can call me Sava if it makes you feel better.”
Sava and Nina hugged again and Nina slipped her hand in Savannah’s and walked back to the doorway.
“We will come back for her things. Can you pack them for her?” Savannah asked Febee.
Febee nodded. Stan disappeared into his room.
“Thanks. Come on Hope, let’s go home.”
Febee followed Stan into their room.
“Yeah. When you were little, I used to call you by your middle name. And I have something for you.”
Savannah took a bracelet from her pocket. It had many charms and one, the biggest one, said ‘Nina Hope Sagger’.
“I had bought this for you when you were four. But it never got to you. So, here.”
Savannah gave Nina the bracelet that she instantly put onto her wrist. The bracelet made her ivory skin seem like it had a faint pink tint to it.
“And yes. Your skin is actually ivory with a pink tint, you get that from me,” Savannah said, answering Nina’s unspoken question.
"Wow…So what does Dan look like?"
"I don't remember, hon. It was eleven years ago the last time I saw that awful man."
"Oh......So....Now what, Sav- I mean, Mom?"
“Now we go home. And you can call me Sava, if it makes you feel better.”
“No,” Nina said, beginning to walk again,” You seem to like it when I call you mom.”
“Well, of course I do! I’ve been waiting for you to call me mom for fifteen years!”
“Don’t you mean sixteen years?”
“No, fifteen. I didn’t care that first year, ‘because you couldn’t even talk!”
“Oh yeah. I forgot.”
Nina and Savannah exited Nina’s old home and began to walk to Savannah’s house.
“Wait, don’t you live with your parents?” Nina asked.
“No, I have my own home. Every time you wanted to come over to my house, I went to my mother and father’s home.”
“Can’t wait to see my house!!!!”
“I knew you would!”
Nina and Savannah walked to the opposite end of the neighborhood. Nina felt eyes on her back.
“Oh my goodness, Sava!!!!!!!!!! I’m being watched again!!!” Nina screeched.
Savannah turned quickly. A man slithered out of the bushes.
“Hello, Savannah. Long time no see,” He said smiling.
“It sure has. Now, why are you out of jail? Didn’t you get twenty-five to life?”
He smiled again.
“Lil’ something I like to call ‘good behavior’.”
“B*****d,” Savannah spit.
Nina covered her ears and gave a small squeak.
“Aw, poor baby. You don’t like when Mommy cusses, do you?” the man asked Nina.
“Who are you?” Nina asked, her lip quivering.
The man smiled.
“I am Dan, sweetheart.” He laughed,” But, I know who you are.”
Dan had dark skin with pale blue eyes. His medium length black hair blew in the wind. He wore a dark brown trench coat and black gloves with the fingers cut off, showing his pale fingers. Dan walked up to the girls and touched Nina’s hair. Dan sighed.
“You look just like your mother.”
Savannah mumbled under her breath.
“Ah, Savannah. So nice to see you again!” he said.
Savannah gave an un-amused smile.
“How long has it been? You know, since you sent me away? I never did get to meet my daughter…”He faced Nina with a grimy smile on his face.
“About eleven years, Dan. And Nina here, I’m sure, didn’t want to meet a slimy piece of s*** like yourself.”
“Come now, Savannah. Mommy and Daddy shouldn’t fight in front of little Nina like this,” Dan smiled menacingly and pulled Savannah close to his body, “Why don’t we go back to my place and sort this out like adults?”
“No thanks.” she said, pushing away from him.
“Wow. You actually think you have a say in what happens next. Isn’t that cute! Just as cute as you were when you were ten years old.”
“And you thought it was SO cute when you took me from the playground at my elementary school, huh?”
Dan smiled again. He smelled like sewer.
“The way you kicked and tried to scream? Priceless!”
Nina stared at Dan, horror on her face. Dan looked at her.
“What? You think she came willingly? I had to tie poor Savannah up so she wouldn’t run away,” he looked at Savannah and laughed low and menacingly, “She is the only person to have survived. But, I think you’ve lived a long enough life, don’t you?”
Dan pulled out a gun. Savannah gasped and widened her big hazel eyes as she stared down the barrel of Dan’s revolver.
“W-w-why are you doing this?”
“Must be some sort of ‘unfinished business’ type thing.”
“And I have to die JUST because I didn’t die when I was ten?”
“Looks that way, doesn’t it?”
Nina saw someone sneak up behind Dan, but she couldn’t tell who it was.
“Now. Lets go on inside, huh? Wouldn’t want anyone seeing.”
Suddenly, the person who snuck up behind him, jumped into the air on top of Dan.
“Get off me!” Dan screeched.
Nina saw the face of their savior. It was the school’s track star, Skyler Johnson. He was the hottest person at the school. Every girl attended the Track games just to see Skyler run. He had blonde hair that came over his left eye with the bluest eyes a person could have. He was the same height as Nina.
“Run, Nina! Run, Savannah!” He screamed to them.
Dan dropped the gun. Nina hurriedly grabbed it and ran off with Savannah down the street. When they reached Savannah’s house, Nina was to scared to take in the beautifully decorated home.
“We have to help Skyler!” Nina said.
“What can we do?”
Then there was a hurried knock at the door.
“OPEN-UP GUYS!” Skyler’s voice screamed.
They opened the door and Skyler ran inside. They saw Dan run towards them, so they closed the door and locked it. Nina and Savannah slid down the door to the floor.
“Everyone okay?” Savannah asked, breathlessly
The two nodded. Nina looked at the gun. She turned it over and over in her hand. Skyler, who had been cooling off on the couch, stood and sat between Nina and Savannah against the door.
“You okay, Nia?” Skyler asked, using her school nickname.
Skyler touched her hand that was holding the revolver that almost ended both her and Savannah’s lives.
“Yeah. I’m okay.”
“Who was that guy, anyway?”
“Dan Luther…..Nina’s father.” Savannah said.
Savannah retold her story about Dan and how Nina was born.
“Wow,” he said, looking at Nina, then Savannah, then Nina again.
“I’m so sorry, Savannah.”
“Don’t be. Look at Nina! She has everything of mine. But, I hate to say it. She has Dan’s eyes. They look better on her, anyway.”
“So what are we going to do, now?” Skyler asked.
“Let me go call the police. This is a violation of his parole.”
“How do you know?”
“I asked when he was put away. He’ll go away for longer now. AND he wont get off with good behavior.”
Then, Savannah got up and disappeared into her kitchen.
“So.” Nina said.
“I’m glad your okay.” Skyler said without looking at her.
“Whats wrong, Skyler?”
Skyler smiled when Nina said his name.
“What?” Nina asked, smiling as well.
Skyler laughed softly
“Alright. I’ve always kinda sorta maybe had a huge crush on you.”
“Really?” ‘Cause I kinda sorta maybe had a crush on you, too.”
Skyler laughed again.
“All girls do. But your…so…Different. You don’t follow the crowds or anything. You are just…you. And that’s what I like most.”
Nina couldn’t help but giggle a little.
“I was going to your house to ask you out when I saw someone. I ran over and saw you and just had to play hero. I was relieved when I saw you grabbed that gun”-Skyler pointed to the revolver in Nina’s hands-“Then I knew the only way I would get hurt would be his fist or foot.”
“Yeah. I kinda expected him to grab for it. So I did first.”
They heard police sirens down the street-Sava had completed her call.
When she re-entered, she just stared at them.
“What?” Nina laughed.
“There going to search for him and send him straight to jail-No trial.”
“Great!” Skyler said.
“But they can’t search overnight, so they’ll stop at about nine-thirty.”
“Okay. I am NOT going out there by myself.” Skyler said, “I can stay over, right? I mean, it is Friday.”
“Oh totally. But we’ll sleep here in the living room. No way any of us can sleep in a room all by ourselves.”
Nina and Skyler nodded in agreement. So Savannah found sleeping bags and Skyler took the couch.
“Night you two,” Savannah said.
“Night.” Skyler and Nina replied together.
As the night progressed, Dan continuously hid from the cops.
“Call the cops on ME will you? Well, this weekend, no one will survive.”
The next morning, Sava made breakfast: Omelets!
“Those cops call you and tell you they caught Dan yet?” Skyler asked.
Sava shook her head.
“Are they searching now?”
Savannah scooped up one omelet and put it on a plate for herself. She sat down and began eating.
“I just hope they find him.” Nina said.
“We all do, honey.”
“Now, how am I going to get home for Monday?”
“If they don’t find him by Monday, I’ll vouch for the both for you. No school.”
Nina and Skyler high-fived each other. Savannah giggled. Just then, the phone rang.
“Hello?” Savannah answered it.“ Uh huh… .Fantastic!… .No! I mean that he was caught… . .Tell the family that I send my condolences… …Thank you… .Buh-bye.”
“What happened?” Skyler asked with half the omelet in his mouth.
“They caught him! Only thing is…”
“What? Nina asked.
“You know Britt Caroline from school?”
“Yeah. She always came to the Track games. First one there no less.” Skyler said, swallowing the omelet.
“Dan killed her.”
“Oh no!” Nina said, putting her hand over her heart, “That’s terrible!”
“They said they are putting him away for life. So you guys do have school on Monday. I’m going to have to drop out. I already finished high school! Time for college!!!!!!”
Later that day, Savannah, Skyler, and Nina, celebrated Dan’s capture with a mini party. Febee and Stan brought over Nina’s clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. And visited the jail where Dan was being kept.
“Hello, Dan.” Savannah said.
“Savannah. Thanks to you I have a life sentence with no parole. If I ever get out, you and your little b*****d child will die. DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU WILL BOTH DIE!”
Savannah tried to hold back a smile.
“Yeah. I’d like to see that.”
And as Dan steamed in the Miami Country Jail, Savannah was finally reunited with her daughter. Skyler and Nina went out on multiple dates and married when they turned twenty. They had a daughter, Britt Caroline Johnson. She was named after Dan’s last victim, and asked Britt Caroline’s mother and father to be their daughter’s Godparents. Dan eventually died in jail. He was fifty-four.
Savannah, Skyler, Nina, and Britt, all attended Dan’s funeral.
“Although he tried to kill me, if it weren’t for Dan, I wouldn’t have had such a beautiful daughter.” Savannah said.
So, as they continued their lives, Skyler, Nina, and Savannah, despite what Dan had done, learned to love Dan’s decisions. Because if he didn’t make those decisions, Nina would never had been born nor would she have met the man of her dreams.
Arlington Heights, Illinois
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