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When she snuck out of the house tonight to meet him, she was all adrenaline. Now, waiting under the street lamp, she felt the fear she wished would have befallen her earlier. The street was so dark outside the circle of light — her protection. It is hard to believe that with all the wits adults claimed she had, she would ever be seen standing alone on this quiet empty street so late at night. A shiver ran through her — in her hyper rush to leave, she did not think about the sun stealing its warmth with its travels. And to make it worse… he was late. How long was she supposed to wait for him before she went tail-tucked back home? Was any guy worth this? Even Paul? She closed her eyes and imagined his face. Such perfect blue eyes and the sharp curve of his jaw… She could stay a little while longer perhaps. If his face couldn’t convince her, the thought of making the walk back to her apartment alone would.
The minutes ticked by and she shrugged herself onto the sidewalk. Back pressed against the lamp post, she thought of all the things she should be doing right now. But it was really all those things far more than Paul that brought her out. All the pressure of life. All the pressure of doing the right thing all the time. It’s hard to be young and never be dumb. It was a rite of passage or a time honored tradition. She was willing to believe these and any other lies that could relieve some of the guilt. She was a straight A student with a choice of colleges ahead of her. She worked a part time job and never missed a day. She was that daughter every parent wished they had — oh we don’t have to worry much over her. A little worry would be nice sometimes. School is one thing, but AP classes and the college classes she was fitting in at night — her version of school was on hyperdrive. She was the reliable one who everyone called upon to fill in and fix up whenever things needed doing. Her life was void of anything that couldn’t be considered a duty. So just this once, she thought she’d give in to the parts of her she kept quelled so far below her smile. Just this once she thought she would walk a fine line. Her parents never even bothered setting up a curfew — you’d have to go out somewhere to need to be home on time.
When Paul asked her to meet him, the idea crossed her mind that it could just be some prank. It’s not like they ever talked outside of class. And things like that happened sometimes according to all the movies. But he seemed so sincere — nervous almost. He said he really wanted her to. So she said okay. Okay. Couldn’t have been anything witty or sexy… but okay got her her first date. If this was even a date. At this point it was probably safe to say that it wasn’t a date because you needed two people for that. And here she sat alone hugging her knees at the base of a lamp post. It only now occurred to her that this was a particularly weird place to meet up. Why not at the mall? Or movies? Or hell McDonalds? He even mentioned this lamp post specifically. The 4th one down Peach Ave. Maybe she heard him wrong. Maybe he meant the 4th one down Peach St. It’s the south, there are a lot of Peach names. But she was hanging on his every word — she wouldn’t have gotten the wrong name. But as she looked around, this seemed a bit more than strange. This road was near deserted at this point.
The economy meant that a lot of these houses had been foreclosed — they were nice places, but people just couldn’t afford it anymore. She didn’t see any lights on in any of the houses. Surely someone was awake at this hour? It wasn’t that late was it? She glanced down at her watch, it was just passed midnight. She jerked up in a panic. There was no way she had sat her for that long. Oh how pathetic to wait on someone under a street lamp for hours. She was mentally chiding herself when she heard a noise from down the street. She thought she saw a shadow in another post’s light further down the street, but it was so dark elsewhere she wasn’t sure. She held her breath trying to listen. Definitely the sound of footsteps. They were getting closer to her and she was balanced somewhere between run for your life and maybe it was just Paul hoping she’d still be waiting. She backed to the edge of the circle of light, somehow convinced that inside it she was safe.
She cautiously called out “Paul?” There was no response. Okay, so now the run for your life side was feeling pretty weighted at this point. She looked behind her to the next street lamp and decided a little more distance was better than nothing. But right as she was about to dash, the owner of the footsteps spoke.
“Normally, they don’t wait this long. By now you should have made your way into the darkness. I’m just not very patient, see.”
The voice was smooth — almost charming. Even with the danger his words meant, she felt so much calmer.
“Why don’t you just make it easier on everyone, and either make a run for it or just walk away with me — either way, this light can’t hold you forever.”
As if on cue, the light flickered making her gasp. Why was she so sure she wanted to leave with this man now? She pushed herself back against the light post and closed her eyes. She needed to do something. If she ran, he would catch her anyway right? Why was she talking herself into this? Oh this was just too much. She opened her eyes and was sure she could see the outline of a face in the darkness. How did he know she was here? Was he a friend of Paul’s? Oh god, was she still thinking about Paul? Her mind couldn’t focus — it’s like this man’s presence blurred her brain.
Everything felt warm like hot cocoa, her thoughts thick and heavy like molasses. She felt herself start to faint as the world went dark around the edges. When she fell, one hand landed outside the circle of light. One hand was grabbed. One hand let the rest of her body be dragged into the darkness.