They Wonder Why I Can't Forget 2 of 6
“Excuse me, sweetpea. I need your help.”
I squeezed the brake and slowed to a halt. A man smiled at me from the driver's seat of a dented black sedan, its hazard lights blinking. His sunglasses reflected pinpoints of sun into my eyes. The car was parked in front of a construction yard. I had never seen him before, but new faces were moving in all the time, and his fresh skin and sculpted hair seemed right at home in our little moneyed enclave, even if his car looked like something our maid, Leticia, would drive.
I hopped off my bike and walked it over to him.
“I was just on my way home from work and, like an idiot, forgot to get gas and ran out.” His smiled broadened. “Can you believe it? Half a block from home. If you could help me push the car up the road, I would really appreciate it.”
“Which house?” I said.
“The red one, right up there.” He pointed to a handsome brick house on the next block with a FOR SALE sign in the yard. “Just signed the papers this week,” he added with another grin.
I looked at him, nervously tonguing my wobbly front tooth. A nagging fear crawled through me, whispering something about strangers with strange requests. But this man didn't seem like someone to fear; he had neither the shabby clothes nor the dark skin that would have made my dad tighten his grip on my hand, had he been there. This was the kind of man my dad would have over for drinks and excited discussions of numbers.
“Okay,” I said.
“Good girl,” the man smiled. He tucked his sunglasses into the chest pocket of his lavender polo and stepped out of the car.
I leaned my bike on its kickstand near the curb.
The man reached over and ran his fingers through the streamers. “Such a pretty bike,” he said. “Did your daddy buy this for you?”
“Yeah. For my birthday.”
“Wonderful. I'll bet he buys you lots of nice things, doesn't he?”
“I guess so.”
“Of course he does. You know, you're so lucky to have the parents you do, parents who can feed you and clothe you and buy you so many nice things. Lots of kids don't have that kind of luxury, you know? Lots of kids have to grow up struggling.”
He snickered to himself, as though thinking of a private joke. “Such a lucky, lucky girl. Here,” he said as he clicked a button on his key fob. “I'll open the trunk. It'll be easier to push that way.”
The trunk popped open. Before I knew it, I felt strong hands grip me by my neck and push me inside. The skin on my cheekbone burned as I scraped against the rough carpeting. My shoulders bumped metal as my legs were lifted up and thrown in. I flipped over, swatting and kicking at the hands that grabbed at me, trying to get breath enough to scream. The wasp sting of a hypodermic needle pierced my thigh. I slowly felt heavy and dull. The whole world was turning blue and fading away, and my limbs were limp and numb. My head lolled to the side and I saw the fluttering streamers of my bicycle for a moment before the trunk shut and I sank into darkness.