|Posted on June 1, 2010 at 12:13 AM|
Once, I was a normal seventeen year old girl. I lived in a small suburb of San Diego, California with my mother and older brother, Kenny, ever since my dad passed away when I was five. I always had lots of friends and was well liked by everyone I met. After graduating high school, I got myself a part time job at a clothing store at the local mall and I remember that I loved the pop music that blared while I folded clothes and joked with the customers. No one could have foreseen the events that would change me from a fun loving, carefree girl to the skittish and bruised woman I would later become.
I wish I could have stopped it somehow, but I’ve learned that what’s in the past is done. We can’t erase it no matter how much we wish we could. I just have to learn how to move on and not let the events of my past destroy who I would become in the future…
Arms full of polo shirts and weater vests, Amanda walked out from the storage area of the store. As she headed toward the window display, her foot caught on one of the stands where the clearance items hung and she started to lose her balance. Before she could fall however, a set of hands grabbed her upper arms and steadied her.
“Whoa, thanks. That could have been really embarrassing,” Amanda told the young man who still had his hands on her arms.
“No problem. I couldn’t just let you fall now could I?” he asked with a smile.
Letting go of her arms, the young man introduced himself, “I’m Jeremy Underwood.”
“Amanda Cleary,” she told him with a smile of her own.
“Well Amanda Cleary, it was very nice to meet you. I hope we see each other again sometime.”
She nodded at him and smiled briefly before he turned to walk out of the store, glancing back at her once before he exited into the crowded mall. ‘Wow’ was all she could think. He was very tall, over six feet, and he had dark hair that just touched the collar of his button down shirt that was tucked neatly into a pair of black slacks.
Shaking her head at herself, she started toward the display once again. It wasn’t the first time she saw an attractive guy in the store and most of them, she never saw more than the one time, so she wasn’t going to let him distract her from her job. She wanted to move out of her mom’s house as soon as she could, so she couldn’t afford a distraction anyway.
As she stacked the polo shirts and sweater vests neatly in their display, Amanda started thinking about her relationship with her mother again. Her mother Wanda was one of those religious fanatics, well, that’s how Amanda described her anyway. Wanda attended church at least three times a week; Sundays for the sermon, Wednesdays for bible study, and every Friday morning she went to the women’s meeting. She was always singing praise music as she washed the dishes or folded the laundry and she had a bible verse for every occasion. That drove Amanda insane. Sometimes she wanted her mom to just listen to her, not preach at her all the time. Wanda just didn’t understand her daughter and Amanda didn’t understand her mother, so the relationship was strained.
After finishing the display, the rest of her shift sped by uneventfully. At the end of shift, she reached down to grab her purse and keys from under the counter and that’s when she saw him. He was lounging against the wide doorway with his hands stuffed into his pockets watching the people milling past the store as they were walking along the mall.
“Hi again,”she said as she walked closer to him.
“Hi to you too. Hey, I was wondering something. Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night? If you aren’t working, that is,” he added quickly. She looked at him for a second wondering if she had heard him right, and then told herself that one date wouldn’t get in the way of her plans.
“Oh, yeah, sure. That sounds great,” she said with a grin. “I’ll just give you my number.” She started digging through her purse for a pen and a piece of paper to write on.
He watched her with amusement as she dug through her bad, and he put on his shy smile when she handed him the old receipt with her number scrawled on the back. This is going to be too easy, he thought to himself. His brother knew how to pick them for sure. This girl would definitely make a profit for the brothers and she looked so naïve that she didn’t have a clue in the world what the future held for her if Jeremy could just keep her believing the lie.
They said their good-bye’s again and Jeremy told her that he would call her the following morning to settle the details with her. As soon as she was out of ssight, he called his brother Alex and told him to get ready for another ‘delivery’ soon.
“The blonde girl from San D.?” he asked Jeremy in an excited voice.
“Yeah, she’s perfect for your new building. I’m sure she’ll keep the boys coming, with all that blonde hair and the big blue eyed thing she’s got going on. I’ve got a date with her tomorrow, so I’ll get a feel for how long it’s going to take to get her to leave with me.”
“Alright Jeremy. Good Job. Let me know how things go tomorrow. Don’t make me sorry for giving you this chance OK? If you mess this up so help me, you’ll be back on the street.”
Jeremy could hear the tension in his brother’s words. He still thought Jeremy was a screw up. Just because he was the little brother and he messed up that one time with the redhead last year that ended up dead. Too many clues left behind that could get him fried. That’s what Alex said. Jeez can’t anybody forgive and forget anymore?
“Yeah, yeah, I Know Alex. Relax. It’s going fine so far. I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said before snapping his cell phone shut and shoving it in his pocket.
The next morning Amanda woe up earlier than usual in anticipation of jeremy’s phone call. Every time the phone rang, she would snatch it up before it could even ring twice, but it was always for his mother. Her brother Kenny had picked up on her nervousness and had teased her incessantly until he left for work around noon. Finally when she was almost ready to give up on his call, the phone rang and it was him.
“Hi!” she enthused, “I was beginning to think you changed your mind.”
“Not a chance,” came his laughing reply. “You know, I don’t really know any of the local places here, so why don’t you choose wherever you want.”
“Um, well, do you like Bellinis?”
“Bellinis sounds great, I’ll meet you there at six?”
They finished up their short phone conversation and hung up. She felt slightly disappointed that he wasn’t going to be picking her up at home, but decided that one small detail didn’t really matter.
The rest of the day was spent rummaging through her closets looking for the perfect outfit to wear. She must have changed her clothes a million times before deciding on a navy blue dress that was neither too dressy nor too casual cut just above her knees. She wore her mother’s sapphire and diamond pendant and a shrug jacket along with her favorite strappy heels to complete the look. Taking a few deep breaths to steady herself, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. Thankfully her mother wwas at some church function so she didn’t have to listen to her ramble on about her dress and her virtue.
Twenty minutes later she walked up to the restaurant, and he was there waiting by the entrance with a single pink rose. He told her she looked beautiful and had kissed her innocently on the cheek. While they waited for their table, they chatted about where his family was from –Colorado—and why he was in San Diego—he was attending the University of San Diego Law and lived in the dormitory there. He had been visiting with a friend the day he met her at the mall. Over a dinner of grilled chicken served over fettuccini in alfredo sauce, she learned that he was in his last year of law school and was going to be working for his brother, who was an associate at a big law firm in New York, within the next month. She was completely amazed by everything he said; he seemed to live such a big life compared to her relatively mundane one. It didn’t even occur to her until later on that he didn’t seem too interested at all in asking questions about her or her interests.
In the four short weeks that followed their first date, Amanda spoke of nothing but Jeremy. They went into the city several times to visit art museums and to walk along the many beaches. She was absolutely smitten with him. Of course, that lead to a myriad of questions from Kenny. After all, nobody was ever good enough for his little sister in his eyes, but she honestly cared for Jeremy so she endured his inquisitions gracefully.
“Who is this guy Mandy?” he’d asked her one afternoon.
“He’s my boyfriend Kenny. Just be nice OK?”
“Well, why doesn’t he ever come around the house? I’d think he would want to meet us properly if you guys are getting serious wouldn’t you?”
“He probably doesn’t want to deal with an overbearing brother,” she said sarcastically, “but I’ll talk to him about it and maybe he’ll come over for dinner or something… not that you would even be home though.”
Kenny’s new job as a photographer for the local newspaper and it seemed he was never at home, but rather always out snapping pictures whenever his assigned reporter called whether it be day or night.
A week later, Kenny wasn’t even there the day she told her mother that she was going to move with Jeremy to New York in two more weeks.
“What do you mean you’re moving?” Wanda had asked incredulously. “You’ve only known him a short time Amanda. This isn’t a very smart thing to do.”
“I’ll be eighteen in a month mom. I’m going,” she said pointedly.
Wanda had pinched her lips closed before she thoroughly destroyed what little relationship there was between them.
“I’ll be praying for your safety while you are gone, but I’m sure you will be back,” she told Amanda softly.
Of course, Amanda rolled her eyes at that comment. When Kenny found out the next day, he wasn’t as graceful about it as their mother. He was angry and he let her know it.
“This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done Mandy!” he screamed, “why are you doing this to mom? If you go, don’t even bother trying to talk to me again. You don’t know what you’re doing!” he shouted emphatically as he stormed out of the room.
The day they left, Kenny was nowhere to be seen. Jeremy had told her it would be easier for her to only take a carry on bag with her now and send for the rest of her belongings after they were settled in New York. He told her not to worry and that he would take care of her when they were there. Of course, she believed him. After telling her mother that she would call in a couple of weeks after they were settled, they were off. Amanda couldn’t wait to start her new life with Jeremy in New York where she would finally be treated like an adult and not have to listen to her mother’s constant disapproval over the choices she made for herself.
Once Amanda’s house was no longer in sight, Jeremy told her that they were going to make a short side trip before going to the airport so that he could drop something off at a friends home. Amanda chattered the entire way to the city and was surprised when they pulled in front of a small house in the seedier part of town. The front lawn was overgrown with weeds and there was an old VW beetle without its wheels propped up on cinder blocks in the driveway. As she got out of the car, she noticed two children that didn’t look any more than two years old playing in the street in front of the neighbors house. There weren’t any parents in sight.
Deciding she wasn’t going to be judgmental of the first friend of Jeremy’s he took her to meet, she squared her shoulders and put on a smile as he knocked on the door. She was surprised as an older version of Jeremy opened the door to them and gestured for them to step inside. Once she was inside the small front room, the older man looked her up and down once and then raised his brows at Jeremy, who only smiled and nodded in return. In those few seconds, Amanda began to realize something was wrong. Stepping slightly closer toward Jeremy, she told him “I think I’ll just wait for you in the care OK?”
“I don’t think so Mandy,” came his cold reply, “you really do need to be here for this.” As Jeremy finished his sentence, the older man grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward himself in an awkward embrace. Smiling, he held her wrists behind her back and lowered his head as if to kiss her. Shocked, she pulled her head back and struggled to get her wrists free.
“Jeremy! Get this guy off of me please,” she shouted angrily.
“Sorry babe. Everybody has to have a tryout,” he replied with laughter in his voice.
The man laughed along with Jeremy and as tears sprang to her eyes, she realized several things at once. She realized she wasn’t going to New York after all. That he had lied to her and that now, she was pretty certain he was going to allow this man to rape her. She could do nothing as the man pushed her toward the back of the house, still holding her wrists so tightly behind her back that they were beginning to numb, but continued to plead with Jeremy to help her, but he was ignoring her completely as he settled into the faded brown sofa for what looked like an extended stay. Horrified, she tried screaming out for help but was rewarded with a hard slap to the side of her face which stunned her momentarily into silence. She could not believe this was happening to her at all, but was forced to realize that it was.
The next few days passed by in a blur of tears and pain. They had drugged her with something that first day that made her black out and when she came to, she was in a new place. They had put her in a small room that only had a twin bed with stained sheets on it and an empty dresser. The same man from before came in the room to give her a sandwich and when she didn’t take it right away, he threw it at her and slapped her across the face hard three times. Amanda had cried herself to sleep on the floor that first night, refusing to get into that dirty bed. She only slept for minutes at a time, her eyes snapping open at every creak and groan of the old floor boards. The sounds coming from the other rooms had her covering her ears and pulling herself into a tight ball in the corner where she quietly hummed the songs that her mother used to sing while she cleaned the house. She didn’t know the words, but she remembered the tunes, and humming seemed to help block out the noise of the screaming and crying.
The next days were worse than the first few weeks because that’s when the men started coming. Sometimes she would be able to hurt them bad enough that they would give up and leave her alone, but mostly they were stronger than she was and she would have to endure their fists as well as the other things they did to her. Once again, she would quietly hum the tunes she remembered to get her through the horrifying experiences trying desperately to keep the memories of her family alive even though they now felt like an impossible dream.
Every night she would pray to her mother’s God that he would take her away from this place, but every morning she awoke to a new day of horror.