It’s tight and stuffy in this space. I can barely move and I'm swimming in the mush. It's dark and my eyes are sealed shut but my heart is racing loud and rhythmic, the sound echoing resonantly in my ears.
Muffled voices waft around me, but I'm so closed in I cannot properly gauge whether they're coming from a distance or within close proximity. I can feel my limbs as I'm curled up in a fetal position. The ability to feel is good. It gives me a sense of hope. I can and I will get out of this space; a space where I'm vised in like a salami slice in a sandwich, enclosed like a sucked-in fur ball in a vacuum's litter-box. I want to scream but I can't as my mind doesn't seem quite connected to my mouth. In my head, I am screaming, but the only sounds I hear are foreign to me. If I concentrate hard enough, I can sense myself being carried. Some movements are happening to me and not due me - I am definitely being transported.
At least I can breathe. Air is streaming in my lungs somehow. My chest feels tight but my lungs inflate and deflate systematically. I want to uncurl myself, to move out of this space, to get free but I'm trapped. As the movement around me suddenly stops, I feel myself falling abruptly. Before I have time to process what's happening, a black fog engulfs me and my consciousness slowly fades into a blackout.
Lucy was called Luck but it was like being cursed - she was anything but lucky. Living in a trailer park with a mother and four siblings, not being afforded the ability to attend kindergarten and middle school regularly, her literacy level was lower than the acceptable norm, her ability to read was impaired and her hand-writing was poor and mostly illegible. Her cursive "y" looked much like the letter "k" so whenever she wrote her name out, it looked like ‘Luck’ instead of Lucy, so that’s what everyone started calling her. She was often teased and bullied because she was unusually petite, more so than most; less pretty, more “smelly”, very clingy, mostly needy. To her, luck was something arbitrary to non-existent. And she could really use some luck right now.
She knew Jace was trouble but he was the only one who "got" her. His family lived in the same trailer park as hers and his Dad was a closeted KKK member who beat his wife frequently. They used to play together in the makeshift park that the residents put up close to the refuse hill that bordered their residential domain. He used to touch her "accidentally" all the time, but he was always an arms-length away if she happened to fall off the see-saw or miss her footing stepping off the swirling merry-go-round.
They started fooling around on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Jace told her that there was a rite of passage that every girl had to go through upon reaching her "prime". Her family had Mexican roots so to her knowledge, this "prime" would not happen for two more years, on her Quinceañera. But she wasn’t the brightest bulb in the warehouse. Nor was she the sharpest tool in the box. There was so much she didn't know or understand. Jace was always telling her about the differences between traditional American culture and her Spanish customs "brought over" from across The Border.
He’d sang the Happy Birthday song as a humming whisper in her ear as he hugged her. Then, he kissed her on the mouth, boldly fiddling around her tongue with the tip of his until her lips parted without pressure, her breath hitching hastily in her throat. It was the first time she had kissed a boy. Well, technically, he was not a boy. He was a man. His nineteenth birthday had passed three weeks prior. But she was the one who felt strange and warm and grown up, like he had said she would. That’s how everything started. Gradually, she welcomed his touch in those places that were sometimes the only parts of her covered, as she donned the hand-me-down clothes that were either too short or too tight, rarely ever a perfect fit or light and loose as her bra size and waistline increased daily. It was not long before they did “it”. She was scared at first because of how big he was – in more ways than one. The first time was painful, but as they did it more often it became tolerable and pleasurable. She liked how protective Jace would get and sweet tempered after every one of their encounters. This was the side of him that people did not get to see and she felt fortunate. But the very storm that young Jace was always brewing had been there all along, snatching her up in the turbulence.
Luck was now a fourteen-year-old young woman on the run, with a captive in tow. In the one year that elapsed since she and Jace became romantically involved, she had dropped out of school, joined a gang, got two tattoos and a navel-piercing, and aided and abetted a crime. She could go to jail from what she understood, juvenile detention. But Jace could get locked up in penitentiary which was where Luck’s two uncles and even Jace’s grandfather presently sat behind bars. Hiding a person against their will – was that not something like kidnapping? What was worse was that they had discussed getting rid of the "captive" permanently, Jace contemplating a plan in which they would not get caught. But Luck didn’t want their captive to die, an innocent party to their reckless shenanigans. Jace said the captive would be a liability that could compromise their future. She didn’t know what that word meant but she wondered: how did the captive have the ability to tell a lie? Luck managed to convince Jace to keep the captive alive and hidden, yet she felt the weight of the guilt that came with what seemed like an entrapment.
I have no idea what day of the week it is, what hour of the day it is, what the next minute will hold. I know I’ve been trapped in this space for a long time as my limbs feel like they have been growing, encompassing the tight space every time I try to move around in my enclosure. As the days pass, I hear them talking more clearly. They are thinking of a way to dispose of me. I am screaming to the top of my lungs but nothing is coming out of my mouth. My mind is a puzzle and I am trying to put the pieces together as to where I am and how I got here. The Luck lady cries a lot but she tries to hide it from the Jace guy. When he’s not around, she’s nice to me. She feeds me, gives me water, hums to me sometimes, but she never speaks to me. I have no memories or recollections but I know I have to get out of here somehow and the feeling grows stronger and stronger as time elapses. I am always being moved around. We are always on the move. It leaves me feeling further disoriented and overly anxious and I am grateful when the movement stops and all is still around me, except, that’s when the mind-darkness comes and I am sinking into a black-hole where my thoughts completely stop.
Jace had promised to protect her and she believed him. To be fair, he had started off as an older brother in her life and was there for her in those moments when her father was needed but never around. She was daft but she was socialized well enough to know that what Jace was involved in was bad, bad, bad. He would always tell her that he was just a medium. She never understood how he thought so when, in her estimation, he was definitely a ‘large’. After a while, she figured out what he meant as she started accompanying him on the “drop offs”. He would make her wear a hoodie, one with a private school’s insignia on the front pocket, and a pleated skirt that she was tasked to keep tidy and clean. She would hold the lunch bag while he carried a backpack on his back.
They pretended to be siblings, traversing to and from school. It was always different people at different spots, but the routine was the same. They would walk past the “client” who would call out to them as they passed, feigning interest in the school she attended and asking questions about it. She would then claim to be thirsty while her “older brother” rambled on about the private institution. She’d open the lunch bag, pull out a water thermos from inside and pretend to be struggling to open it while Jace rattled on. The client would offer to help her, taking the thermos from her hand and removing the plastic pouch that would be covertly attached to it before handing it back. Jace tried to keep her sheltered in her naivety but she had a very strong inkling that those little plastic pouches did not contain “fairy dust”. She had heard about crack and cocaine and had seen the Powells “sniffing up” on many occasions when she was at home, out of school, roaming the trailer park unsupervised. They had lived on the other side of the park, the side that her mother had always warned them not to venture to.
Her parents conceded to her degeneration mostly because Luck and Jace brought money to the table, literally. Every time they did a drop-off, Jace would collect wads of cash at the end of the week. He would use most of it to help his Mom buy food and other necessities for his siblings as his father was also financially abusive. The rest, he would drop off at Luck’s trailer, always leaving a marked envelope on the miniature coffee table at the centre of their living space. They never questioned the source of the money and were grateful for the help. But Luck’s mother would always warn her about getting involved in Jace’s “activities”. She would kiss her daughter on the forehead and utter endearments to her each time Luck left the trailer: “Ten cuidado hija mía - te amo”.
Perhaps Luck was really just stupid and not "unlucky" as she tried to tell herself instead. She was not careful and now she was an accessory to a crime and a possible crime-in-the-making. It all began to unravel on the last drop-off with a client. They were supposed to meet by the Quick Shoppe in the heart of town. But Jace noticed a guy who seemed familiar, standing awkwardly at the store’s entrance. The familiar face he registered then had been in the vicinity several times on their last few drop-offs. The client was waiting in place as per arrangement, but Jace didn’t stick to the script. He told Luck to keep walking and they passed by without stopping. As he looked back, the guy at the store entrance pulled out a cell phone and started walking briskly toward them. “Run!!” Jace screamed, and they took off, Luck heading for an alleyway between a row of abandoned houses and Jace running in the opposite direction.
They'd discussed this a few times over, the "escape plan" should anyone ever approach them with evil intentions or representing the law. They had a hideout in the basement of an abandoned house, filled with canned food and water and other supplies for such an occasion. It would serve as their hideout until a period of time passed. It was there that they happened upon the captive. She got to the house before Jace who met her later that evening. What should have been a few hours turned into several days. She had tossed her cell phone on the run as instructed and couldn’t contact her parents or anyone. After two weeks in the ‘hole’, she began to feel sick. There was a leak from a rafter overhead that saw water and slush collecting in the enclosed space. Her retching that happened every time she woke up or ate the meager offerings from their stash, added to the bio-hazards around them.
One of Jace's contacts managed to offer an escape plan. They came in the middle of the night and transported them to a house twenty minutes away from the city. The police were looking for Jace and Luck’s family had reported her missing. They would be laying low until he could figure out a proper plan and she would have to stay in hiding until they could properly dispose of their captive.
Things seem to be growing momentum somehow. I still have no idea what is happening, but I feel like freedom is nearer than I can mentally measure. I’ve grown accustomed to the space and Luck has been giving me more room to move around, but I’m still trapped. If they were going to get rid of me, I think I would already be dead. That thought comforts me as I envision the world outside that I am being deprived of. I must be experiencing some kind of Stockholm Syndrome as a coping mechanism as I feel a bond forming between me and my captors. Jace has started addressing me as a human. He previously referred to me as “it”. He has been discussing a plan to go over The Border and start a new life there, taking me with them and giving me some sort of new identity. When he’s not around, Luck calls me Querida. She talks to me now, but I’m still bound and unable to respond. I tell myself over and over that everything is going to be okay. Then, suddenly, a commotion erupts. There is a frenzy. Rapid movements. Shouting. I hear the piercing scream of Luck as she falls to the ground and I feel myself falling with her, blackness overpowering me with it.
It happened suddenly. Policemen surrounded the tiny cottage-like structure and started banging down the door. “Police!” they shouted “Please come out with your hands up or we're coming in!!” Jace grabbed Luck and covered her mouth as the door came caving in and the armed men rushed forward. One of the men grabbed him off of her while others encircled, guns drawn. She had seen scenes like this on TV but never imagined to be on set for a take that was happening in real life. Just then, a sharp pain pierced her side and she screamed. Hot liquid gushed down her legs and she fell backward in a faint. The last thing Luck thought before consciousness left her was “Please don’t hurt my baby”.
It’s been a rough few days, but I am alive. Alive and, well,...not so well. But alive. I’m lying in a transparent dome with lots of vines hooked up all over my body. I can see everything now. I can hear clearly. I can smell. I can scream! The screaming seems to be welcomed by all the people that continue to fuss over me and I am happy for that. My new world seems strange but there is so much light that I feel flooded. I am being treated well but I miss Luck and Jace. I hear them talking about me being a "ward of the state" and adoption options after I'm discharged and wonder what’s my medical diagnosis; the reason I am being kept in this place after I was freed from captivity. They arrested Jace on charges of sex with a minor and the sale of illegal drugs. They are keeping Luck in some sort of Correctional Institute for girls. She comes to visit me sometimes and I long to feel her touch. I am acquainted with the sound of her voice, her smell, her footsteps. I miss the connection. She’s here to see me now and though my eyes are closed, I can see her in my mind. I’m so tired and I feel the darkness descending again but I make the effort to lift my eyelids open as I hear her whisper. “Querida” she says as she looks me in the eye. It fully hits me then - I am finally out of Luck!