Trigger Warning: kidnapping, violence
I run into Jack’s arms, hugging him tightly. “Hello!” I say, looking into his deep grey eyes. They always remind me of storm clouds, but not in a bad way.
Jack is my best friend. We’ve been friends for 12 years, since we were 5 years old. People always make fun of us, singing that ridiculous “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” song, but Jack always told me to ignore it. That’s one of the reasons I started having a crush on him over Christmas, his obliviousness to teasing, and how he defends me from Jessica Thompson, the bully. Not that I’ll tell him that. Some things are best left to the secrecy of the mind.
He smiles, running a hand through my long hair. He’s taken to doing that lately, but I’m not sure why.
“How are you?” I say enthusiastically, sitting on his couch, playing with my green tassel earring.
“Good.” I say, grinning at Claire. Because you’re here, I want to add, but to admit that I have a crush on her would be like admitting that I touched the silver watch in her jewelry box. Not dangerous or mean, but unnecessary. And I did touch the watch once. But I don’t pride myself on it.
“What do you want to do?” she says, smoothing down her green skirt.
“Want to take a walk?” I ask.
“Yeah.” she stands up, already moving towards the door. She’s not much taller standing than she is sitting. She’s only about 5’ 3’’ and very slight.
I open the door and drop the key in my pocket. Claire leads us outside and in the morning sun, her curtain of reddish gold hair gleams.
We walk down Ridgeway, a side street in Chicago, and I say “Wanna hear a nacho joke?”
“Oh wait. I remembered...it’s too cheesy!”
Claire giggles, rolling her eyes. Then her bright brown eyes fasten on my face again “That has to be the lamest joke I’ve heard in a while.”
“What can I say? I have a younger brother.”
He’s talking about Charles, his 8 year old brother. 8 year olds are the primary source of cheesy and terrible jokes.
As for me, I have a sister, Valerie, in her 2nd year of college and a baby brother, Christian. He was an accident. Luckily he doesn’t have any problems, even though my mom is 40.
Suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I turn towards Jack. I barely have time to say his name before everything goes black.
I can hear Claire scream, a thin, terrified shriek. I want to grab her hand, hug her, tell her it’s going to be okay. But suddenly the world goes dark and I can’t see a thing.
I wake up in a dinghy room. It looks like a basement, and the cold tiles on the floor make me shiver. I realize my hands are tied and so are my feet, and there’s a scrap of fabric over my mouth and nose. It smells terrible, and when I inhale too much, I feel woozy. It’s drugged.
I manage to get it off, and then I suddenly remember about Jack. “Jack!” I shriek, the desperation and fear apparent in my own voice. “Jack, where are you?!”
He’s the only one on my mind. Not my mom, not my dad, not Valerie, not Christian. They briefly appear in my thoughts, and then they are pushed away. No, no. Jack is the only one in danger. Jack is the only who might be dead.
I hear a faraway yell, and then suddenly a man is in the room. He has a leering grin and a gold tooth. I shriek when I see him holding a knife, and a bloody photograph. My blood turns to ice when I see that it’s the picture of Jack and I that Jack always carries in his wallet. Is that Jack’s O-positive blood?
He calls “Hey babe? Come here.”
I’m terrified but I have to be strong. I have to make sure Jack is okay. And I can’t let them kill me.
“Where’s Jack? Where’s my friend? The blonde one, with the grey eyes?” I say frantically, and I know my eyes must be wide with terror.
The man traces his finger on the blade and says “I don’t know. You’ll have to see, sweetheart.”
A long-legged woman wearing a blue minidress steps into the room. Her long brown hair is tied back in a loose braid and an impish grin is visible on her face. She always told me she hated that I got our mom’s red hair and she was stuck with brown.
My heart drops.
Standing in front of me is my sister.
I hear Claire’s shrill screams, and I struggle against the ropes tying me to the punching bag. I’m alone, but I know she’s near me. I’ve been visited by Valerie, her sister. How could she do this to me? To Claire, her freaking sister? “Claire! Clarrie! It’s okay!” I cry, struggling again. I use a nickname I gave her, that I only use when she’s vulnerable, scared, sad. My wrists are rubbed raw and my blood runs down my wrists. A small cut on my arm also bleeds.
“Leave her alone!” I yell, when I hear another scream, this time of shock and hurt.
It’s insane how I can recognize every part of her in the dark. Even her screams.
I hear a door slam, and a brunette walks into the room. It’s Valerie again. When she took some of my blood and spilled it on the photograph, I knew Claire would be terrified. I want Claire to know that I’m okay. Please, let Claire be okay.
“Why did you do this, Valerie?” I demand, tears spilling down my cheeks. “When will you let us go?”
She giggles, a scary thing. Then her face shadows, and her blue eyes gleam red momentarily in the crude basement light.
“Claire was always the favorite, always the darling, before Christian came along a couple months ago. I’ve been wanting to get revenge on her for a while.” Valerie says, her black satin heels clicking on the hardwood floor.
“Valerie, where is she?!”
“In the other room. Stone cold.”
“WHAT?!” I shriek, the tears coming hot and fast. “Valerie, please. Don’t kill her. Kill me instead.”
Valerie shakes her head. “I kidnapped you both, and I intend to kill you both. I kidnapped you because I knew you’d be a miserable little maggot without my pretty, darling sister.”
“Stop. Please. Let us go. I’ll give you all the money in my savings, my car, my Xbox. Whatever you want.”
“I don’t want consumer goods. Money doesn’t mean anything to me.” She makes a beckoning sign with her pale finger.
In steps a man, broad shouldered. I wouldn’t expect him to be a kidnapper, because he looks so...earnest. Kind. Not everyone looks like who they are. I guess.
He’s taller than her. “Vincent.” Valerie purrs.
This man-Vincent-snakes his hand around her waist, dangerously close to slipping under her dress.
“Vincent. Please. Let us go. We won’t press charges.”
He stares at me, leering. “Your pretty little friend is bleeding out as we speak. There is no ‘we’.”
I lay on the floor, immobilized by my binds and my fear. Why Valerie?
I can hear the faint strains of Jack’s soft voice. He sounds like he’s begging. I manage to inch my way to a cedar cabinet and use my teeth to open it. Inside are a few board games, a box of Always maxi-pads-Valerie’s favorite-and my cellphone! Leave it to Valerie to be a stupid kidnapper and leave my cellphone where I could find it.
I manage to push my binded hands around my legs so that they’re in front of me instead of behind and I grab the cellphone. I swipe it and then swipe onto the emergency call menu.
Slowly, deliberately, I dial 9-1-1.
“You’re lying!” I yell, struggling again, clenching my hands into fists.
Wait. Is that my imagination, or do I hear...a police siren?
Valerie and Vincent go up the stairs to investigate.
I let my mind settle on Claire. Just this morning, I would never have admitted to her that I need her, that I love her more than a friend, but if we get saved I’ll tell her.
If she’s alive.
I shove my phone down my bra with my teeth and scoot back to the spot where I was and lay there, my heart pounding in my chest, in my throat, in my wrists.
I feel like a drum, my heart thumping everywhere.
I breathe out, because I think I hear a police siren.
Suddenly I hear a shriek, and a hoarse cry. Heavy noises and yelling reaches my ears and I grin hopefully. “Cops.” I say aloud.
A cop bursts into the room. She’s holding a pistol and a first aid kit. She has short black hair, and a muscular body.
“Are you the one who called? We received a distress call from someone claiming to be the abductee. I’m Jones, by the way.”
“Hi. No. I didn’t make the call. It must have been my friend Claire.”
“We arrested the kidnappers. Where is she?”
“The other room.”
I breathe a sigh of relief when I feel her cut the ropes from my hands and I am free from the punching bag. Jones bandages my wounds.
Then Jones rushes into the other room, and emerges a few seconds later, with Claire behind her. She isn’t bleeding at all. She’s not even hurt.
Jones smiles. Claire looks at her and says “Can we go home?”
“Of course.” Jones runs up the stairs, fingering her gun.
Claire runs into my arms, and she doesn’t smell like this mildewy place. She smells like marshmallows, her usual scent.
I squeeze her tightly. “I love you. More than a friend.” I say softly.
“I didn’t want to admit it, but I do too.” I can tell she’s smiling just by the sound of her voice.
I kiss her head, and then direct her up the stairs. Jones drives us home, and she stays at my house. Jones tells both of our families what happened, and then finally, finally, they leave us alone.
We go on the back porch. “Are you afraid? Do you think we’ll have like...trauma?” she says worriedly. We’re sharing the porch spring, and she has her head in my lap, and I’m playing with a strand of her hair.
“Maybe. But we’ll help each other get through it. I need you, and you need me.” I reply.
She smiles, closing her eyes. I kiss her lips, softly.
We both fall asleep on the porch swing, cicadas chorusing in the warm muggy night.
If you forget that we’ve just been kidnapped by her psychotic sister, it’s very peaceful.