I have never been more scared in my entire life. I clutch my burgundy sweater sleeve so tightly that it leaves it crumpled and my knuckles pale. Another girl, about 12, sits next to me silently weeping. She is trembling all over, and her long blonde hair is tangled and unkempt. I want to lay a comforting hand on her shoulder, tell her it's all right, but I barely know her and I don't want the first thing I ever say to her to be a lie.
The van we are in silently comes to a halt, and I want so badly to look out the window and see the morning light. I want it to be like it was yesterday and the day before that, with Mom and Dad and Jacob by my side, loving me no matter what I do. Especially Jacob, my boyfriend. I want them to hold me in their arms again, no matter how many kids from school stare. The truck speeds up again, and I come back to reality.
I can't look out the window because I am bound to my seat, and even if I wasn't, every window was sprayed over with black paint so that no one can see what is happening inside. I won't be able to see Mom, Dad, or Jacob for I don't know how long because this poor helpless 12 year old and I are trapped here in this stranger's van. Kidnapped.
I cautiously look up, scanning my surroundings. There are rickety shelves piled high with guns, knives, and other miscellaneous objects that have probably been stolen from innocent people. The floor of the van has small pieces of litter scattered about. Stashed in the corner just behind the shelves are what look to be illegal drugs, but I can't be sure. There is a small, plastic bin that has tumbled to the ground because of the vehicle's sudden acceleration and crumpled pieces of paper roll out as the van turns. I wonder what things were written on those simple sheets of paper. Probably a messed up ransom note, or criminal records, or a gun permit. I shudder at the thought of guns. Oh, why did I get myself into this mess? What was I thinking?
It all started the day before yesterday when I was meeting my boyfriend, Jacob, for lunch in the cafeteria. I had just gotten a D on my test and I was in a particularly bad mood when the bell rang. Anxious high schoolers pushed past me in an attempt to beat the crowd at getting in the lunch line first. I usually sped up to a power walk and raced with them if I were with my friends, Linzie and Becca, but Linzie was in another state getting interviewed for her dream college, and Becca was with her, giving her moral support. I wanted to go, but even if I had the flu or the stomach bug, my parents would be hesitant about letting me skip school.
I kicked at the loose tile in the lunch line with my worn out sneakers, worried what my parents would do if they found out my science grade. They would ground me, for sure, but for how long?
"Hey the lunch line's moved, why don't you?" growled a scary looking senior, that looked like he was already in his mid-20s or 30s.
"Sorry." I mumbled, and shuffled up to the front of the line. I grabbed my smelly tuna fish casserole and was out of there. I stumbled over the crowded lunch tables to where Jacob was casually eating his ham and cheese sandwich that he always packed.
"Hey A-Bagel! How's it going?" He teased, his playful blue eyes shining. Only he, Lexie, and Becca were allowed to call me that.
"No, no, no, no stop!" I laughed, "I am not a food item!"
"So.... how've you been?" He asked, and my mood immediately darkened again.
"Fine, I guess..." I replied.
"What's wrong?" he frowned, with a concerned look on his face. I wanted to confide in him about the grade I got, but he is a straight A student and it would be so embarrassing to tell him.
"Nothing!" I said through gritted teeth, avoiding his gaze, "Actually I wanted to talk to you about something."
He beckoned for me to go on.
"So you know that Instagram I got? You now, the one that I got-"
"-without permission?" he finished my sentence, his mood darkening as well, "yes, I remember."
"Well, anyways" I went on awkwardly, "I met this group on there that seem pretty cool. They said that they are having a meet-up here in New York City and they will choose certain people to come. They have thousands of followers, but I was one of the people that they invited! Isn't that exciting?"
"You aren't planning on going are you?!" Jacob gawked in disbelief, "You don't even know them; they could be thieves or murderers. They could kill you!"
I pushed back my chair in anger, "You're starting to sound like my parents!" I ranted, a little too loudly. A few kids stopped their conversations to stare at us, but I barely noticed them.
"No Abigail, I just want to protect you from harm. You know, it seems like you have some sort of rebellion going. First the electric blue highlights, now the Instagram, what's next? Dying your hair purple?" He stuttered, and tried to take back his last few words when he saw the hurt look on my face, "No, I didn't mean it like that I'm-“
I cut him off, "Well so what if I dye my hair purple? Would you feel the same about me, or would you tell my parents? It seems like you're always taking their side now. You know what, why don't I just leave?" My chair slid back even more, making an awful screech across the linoleum floor. I grabbed my light purple, off-brand bag and while doing so, knocked my glass of tea on to the already gross casserole.
"Abigail..... I-" Jacob's sky blue eyes were filled with hurt and his mouth hung open in complete shock. By this time, more kids around stared at me like I had green spots all over my face. I dashed out of the lunch room as fast as I could and locked myself in the nearest bathroom.
The rest of school went by in a blur. As the last bell rang, I trudged down the long hall, barely noticing when people shoved past me. I sat, hunched on a bench in the carpool line, when Mom's black sedan pulled up. As I reluctantly got in the car, things went downhill from there. "Hey Sweetie, how'd you do on your science test?"
I couldn't take it anymore, and so it all came out, "I FAILED OKAY?!" I shouted angrily, "AND I DIDN'T DO SO WELL ON HISTORY EITHER! You can ground me for however long you want, I don't care."
Mom's face looked stricken. Tears brimmed in her eyes, and I felt terrible for unleashing all of my pain on her. She pursed her lips and whispered, "You and your father can have a talk about this when he gets home tomorrow."
It was silent the rest of the way home. As we walked up the stairs to my apartment building, I felt a sense of dread and my stomach seemed to flop. Mom opened the door and beckoned for me to go on. She pointed her finger to the stair case next to the foyer, and I obediently marched up the steps to my room. My tabby cat, Jasper, walked up to greet me and I scooped him up and hugged him to my chest.
"Jasper, I really screwed up this time." I whispered to him as I plopped on my pink and purple, peace sign bed. "I really need to get new covers, don't I, Buddy?" I picked up my iPhone and scrolled through my Instagram that I wasn't even allowed to have. I felt terrible for what I did, and at that moment I felt the need to show that I was at least right about something, and so I made my decision. I was going to that meet-up.
Boy was I wrong.
At midnight my alarm went off, telling me it was time to go. I grabbed my bag and threw in a flashlight and some extra chewing gum. My old smiley face T shirt had tuna casserole stains all over it, so I changed into my nice burgundy sweater that Nana had given me last Christmas. I put my tangled chocolate brown hair into a low ponytail and checked the mirror one last time. I closed the door silently behind me and walked down the street a little ways. The directions said to make a right, but turning right meant going into a dark alley. I mustered up all the courage I had and I turned. Suddenly, two men appeared. One grabbed my arms and one put his incredibly large hand over my mouth. I let out a muffled scream and bit his hand as hard as I could.
He cursed loudly and then covered his mouth as his friend gave him the death stare. "Get the cloth!" whispered the man who was holding my arms. The other guy snickered, and the last thing I remembered was a white cloth going over my face. Then total darkness.
Now I am here in this truck with another girl who was probably tricked in the same way. Oh, why had I been so foolish? I study the remainder of the chipped, blue polish on my nails that I had painted weeks ago, when everything seemed normal.
Suddenly, silence overcomes the van. The girl has abruptly stopped crying, and I feel as if she is staring at me. For some reason, I am afraid to look, but as I do, I swallow back tears. Her dirty blonde hair and green eyes remind me of my mom. We both stare at each other, and a comforting sense washes over me. At least I am not alone in this terrible place.
"We have to do something." The girl mutters out of the blue. I am not sure if she is talking to herself or to me, but she keeps going, "We can't just sit here and let them kill us! We have to get up! Well, aren't you with me?!"
Her words interrupt my thoughts, "Huh? Oh! Yeah.... that's a good idea. Yeah. Well, first we should probably introduce ourselves. I'm Abigail."
She answers me with a curt nod, "I'm Emma. So...... what are we going to do?"
We spend what seems like hours whispering elaborate plans and then tossing them away because, either it requires our tied up hands, or it is way too out-there. Emma bangs her head against the wall in frustration. I grab strands of my hair and twirl it around nervously in my fingers. There's got to be a way out of this mess, I hope.
The van seems to move slower and slower, I thought I was just imagining it, until it came to a complete halt. I hear the doors open on both sides, and the two men get out. My breath quickens, and I am tense all over. I close my eyes and imagine all of the things they could do to us in the next few minutes. I look to my left and see that Emma doesn't seem to be worried about that. She has her ear pressed to the walls.
"Listen! They are saying that the van needs gas!" She whisper-shouts. I press my ear to the wall as well.
"So you're saying that I have to walk all the way to the next gas station?!" Shouts one of the men.
"Yup," replies the other one, coolly, "Just six miles from here."
"Uggh! Why can't you go?! I always have to do this!" he grumbled.
"Look, I'm older than you and I can put you back there with those girls if you don't get the darned gas!" That seemed like enough for him, because the guy stopped talking and I assume he went on his way.
Meanwhile, Emma and I wait anxiously for the guy to come back. I am paranoid, thinking of everything that can go wrong. I sigh, when all of a sudden I hear what sounds like an alarm. Or is it, do I dare say it, police sirens?
"Do you hear that too?" Emma asks, her voice barely a whisper. I nod, a smile beginning to form on my face.
The police sirens come closer and closer until they seem like they are right next to the truck. After a few agonizing minutes, the two back doors to the van open, and the morning light flows in, glowing against the once dark walls. Before I can enjoy the light anymore, two police men step through the doors, untying and escorting Emma and I out of the van. Out of danger.
I see Mom, Dad, Jacob, and even Linzie and Becca standing outside in a tightly packed circle. Their cars and the police cars surround the van, and there is a man directing the traffic and blocking off the area we are in. The second I step onto the pavement, I dash over to my friends and family and hug every one of them. My mom is crying with happiness and Dad's eyes water as he looks at me. Jacob is grinning, his eyes bright.
"I am so, so sorry," I start to apologize, "I was really stupid and thought I was doing the right thing, when I pretty much just got myself kidnapped and hurt everybody! I mean-"
"I'm just glad that a nice young man told us the license plate number when he did," Mom says, "or else it would've been.. Too late."
"We were worried about you!" shouts Becca, "just imagine, I was in another state and was told my best friend was kidnapped! That's crazy!!!"
We embrace for what seems like forever, until I suddenly look behind me. One of the unsupervised men has a gun pointed straight for me. I gasp, and then everything seems like it is in slow motion. My family taking a surprised step back. Jacob and the police running towards me and yelling something I can't here. The sound of a gunshot and Jacob falling to the ground. A loud wail comes out of me without even realizing it. Everything starts to go dark as I fall to the ground. Darkness.
I am awakened with a start. I immediately jolt upwards, realizing that with the dull walls and heavy looking equipment, I am in a hospital. The door clicks and opens as the doctor and my parents come in.
"She's awake!" Mom almost shouts, "Oh thank goodness! Sweetie are you alright?"
The doctor, lifts his dense, bushy grey eyebrows and smiles. "She will be fine, but you may want to give her a little bit of time before you overwhelm her with silly questions. Now I have other patients to tend to, so you stay right here." As he strolls out of the room, he takes the pen from behind his ears and starts writing on his clipboard.
"Mom, Dad," I croak.
"Oh sweetheart, we're so glad you're okay!" Dad stares at m with a look of sympathy plastered on his face, but as he reaches out to touch me, I remember the past events. Jacob!
"Where's Jacob?" I shout, "Mom, where's Jacob?"
Mom's face turns solemn, "Well, Abigail, he was shot pretty badly in the leg. Luckily it missed any of his organs, but his leg is pretty bad. He will probably be in a wheelchair for a long time."
I sigh with relief and worry, "Can I go see him?"
Mom and Dad smile and help me into one of the hospital wheelchairs, since they gave me medicine that made me unstable, and we rush down the hall to his room. When I open the door, he smiles that crooked smile that always makes me feel bubbly inside, and I almost giggle.
"You aren't mad?" I ask as I stare into his warm blue eyes.
"How could I be mad at you, since you've been through so much? All I did was push you out of the way."
"But, but I was the one who didn't listen to you in the first place." My words stumble out, "I mean, if I hadn't done-"
My thoughts are interrupted as he slips his hand into mine, "Hey, none of that matters now, as long as you’re safe."
Two months have passed since then, and my relationship with Jacob, my friends and my parents have been mended. I even made new friends with Emma, and we text all the time. I deleted my Instagram; not that I could get a new one if I wanted to since I am still grounded! I have learned how much I really love and appreciate my family, and how they appreciate me, even when I do the craziest things.
I walk through the cafeteria lunch line, much happier than before, and grab my always-gross tuna casserole. I see Lizzie, Becca, and Jacob scanning the rows of tables for a place to sit.
"Hey A-Bagel! We found a table!" Becca calls to me and waves me over.
I smile when I see everyone laughing, and throwing chips at each other. I look around the room and see the boisterous jocks pushing each other around, the cheerleaders ranting about the latest celebrity, various students in a passionate discussion about science class, and then back at my table. This is where I belong. "Coming!" I wave back and head over to the table, joining in their laughter.