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The Paths We Take #18: Fly Away

Jun 12, 2018







The cool metal circled my skin as Donnelly caressed my temple with the barrel of the gun. He told me, “You try to take away something of mine again and I won’t be so gentle.” They blamed me for what happened to Ariel. I just sat there, stone-like. Silent… like I was already dead.

Both bodies were gone by morning. It was business as usual at the cabin. The first clients of the day showing up around 8:15 in the morning. There was no set schedule, or time slots, just the “call ahead and we will have her ready” deal. Some of the businessmen snuck out of their homes early, telling their wives they needed to get to the office. I imagined people running around in a backroom somewhere; a scene straight off the trading floor on Wall Street.

Donnelly acted cavalier about most of the problems that went on at the cabin. A disgruntled client here; a sick girl there; scheduling conflicts; an occasional girl baked out of her mind to the point she couldn’t perform. This was different. His whispers were like angry muffled screams, like he was whispering into a megaphone.

They had an extra lock put on my door. I no longer had free roam of that part of the cabin. Meals were hurried in on plastic trays, true prison-style, and none of the other girls came to visit me like Ariel had. I wondered if her parents knew she was dead. I pictured a handsome couple standing on an oversized brick porch holding each other as they watched the officer get out of his patrol car. Her mom would fall to her knees, cover her face with her hands, and scream until the tears streamed through the spaces between her fingers. Ariel’s dad would shake his head and try to hold it together for his wife, but he would put his fist through the sheetrock after the officer left.

I heard the clicking of the lock before Gramps appeared in the doorway. “Alright pretty girl, time to get back to work. Your client will be here at 11:00 AM,” he said. “Put some makeup on,” he continued before shutting the door and locking it.

I stood up and pain shot through my neck and down my vertebrae. I was lucky I hadn’t shattered any bones when the four-wheeler struck the trees. I had a bruise on the top part of my forehead the color of an eggplant. Fortunately, I was able to cover it with my hair. I downed a yellow that Ariel had left in my nightstand, and the pain started to fade after a half hour.

Gramps escorted me to the room a few minutes before my scheduled appointment. I waited for him to make a remark about my dress, the dirty old man that he was, but he said nothing. He shut the door behind me as I walked into the room; It was time to be Nikki again.

Sexy, carefree, siren Nikki. Maybe Claire was supposed to die with Ariel; maybe Claire died the first day she arrived at the cabin, or in the van on the grimy floor before she even got there. I imagined myself not caring, not caring about getting away, or even thinking about any place else. Nikki thrived there, a queen in her log castle. Just like my mom said when she found out that I had been “dating” older men for money, “You’re just a common whore. No matter what you do next, you will never be anything else.”

I eased down on the bed and looked down at my black lace dress. I am Nikki,I thought to myself. I remembered the church I started going to before I left home for good. My friend Rebekah’s dad was the pastor. I remember the first service I went to, it wasn’t the kind of church that I had seen in the movies. People were wearing jeans, some even shorts. A skinny-jeans wearing guy from my high school was on the stage with a stickered-up guitar, and a girl with pink hair and denim jacket tapped the drums behind glass wall.

The pastor preached about forgiveness. Forgiveness, I thought to myself. Who will ever forgive me? The pastor said that Jesus would forgive anyone who would just ask. I remember kneeling in front on my bed, shifting my elbows from the mattress to my sides, my hands squeezed together. I prayed that evening, talking into the air, forcing my eyes shut, hoping that he would hear me. I asked for forgiveness, and I felt better knowing that someone loved me and cared that I was alive.

I wondered if my mother would ever forgive me. I thought about her turning and walking out of the room while my arm was outstretched towards her, my hand clutching the smooth peach envelope with “Happy Birthday Mom” scribbled on the front. I spent an hour picking it out for her, and I would spend the next two hours flooding my pillow with tears.

The footfalls outside of the door pulled me from my memories. Nikki was on duty now. Claire worried about who would walk through that door, but Nikki, she was ready.

I had to force myself not to cry and smile at the same time when the door opened. Michael was standing there with a rose in his hand. I knew he would be sweet to me, and I might be able to convince him to wait until another time to sleep with me.

“I couldn’t wait to get back here and see you,” he stammered, trying to be cool, but I knew he was nervous.

“Really?” I played along. “How did I get so lucky?” I flirted. Michael was wearing a red tie with a blue diamond pattern on it, a crisp white button down, and gray dress pants. He walked over and handed me the rose, and then blushed when he leaned in to kiss me. He doesn’t understand how this is supposed to go,I thought to myself.

“You look beautiful,” he said as he ran his finger down the side of my face, movie-like, like he just watched it happen on a Netflix romance.

Nikki knew how to get what she wanted. She wasn’t shy like Claire, but I couldn’t just be Nikki with Michael. He cared, and I couldn’t hurt a guy like that, not even when I was playing at being Nikki.

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and put my lips to his, forcing him down on the bed. I let him go and then fumbled with the covers until they were covering us. I kissed him again, but then pulled my lips away from him to look straight into his eyes.

“I need your help,” I cried, careful not to be too loud. “They are keeping me here,” I whispered as I put my lips to his ear. Michael’s smile faded and was replaced by heavy breaths and a blank stare. “They won’t let me leave. If you don’t help me, they will kill me,” I continued.

Michael tried to take the covers off in a panic, his huge arms ripping at the sheets, but I pulled him closer to me. “Don’t go. I need you. Please,” I begged as he settled his arms around me. He looked at me like no other guy had looked at me before. He kissed me and cradled my neck in his hands.

“I’ll help you,” he whispered back. “How? What do you expect me to do?” he asked as I kissed him.

“I don’t know,” I cried. I didn’t know. I rushed into asking him for help and I knew it. I could see that I was losing him. He was shaking his head and rubbing his chin. I told him about Ariel, and about what happened that day at Nancy’s. I told him about the man at the park who was taking pictures of me the day before it all happened. I worried that Michael knew he was in over his head, so I pulled him closer to me and wrapped myself around him.

I let myself disappear, and I became Nikki. I let myself drift away to the weeping willow tree by the creek I climbed as a child. I imagined myself climbing to the top and getting lost in the sunlight. I imagined that I was a robin… and then I flew away.


© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.