Just another normal day
A day couldn’t have been more predictable: school was dull, practice was hard, my best friend is late.
“Will you hurry up! I need to be home in five minutes!”
It sounds extremely irritated and impatient. It’s the usual sound of me.
The girl in front of me looks up in a hurry and frowns deeply, while rubbing her blonde hairs dry with a towel. Cheerleading practice has run late – which has absolutely nothing to do with my big mouthed response to the coach’s orders today – and waiting for Ellen freaking Mitchell takes even longer.
We have this thing: we ride our bikes home together. It’s been like that since we first started cheerleading practice about five years ago. We never changed the tradition. While the wind messes up our hair, the two of us traditionally recapitulate the day that’s passed. A second peek at my watch. It’s a ten minute drive until I reach the house where my family lives, which means I’m never going to get home in time.
“Come on, Mitchell. Just leave your hair like that. Doesn’t matter.”
I sound annoyed. No, I am annoyed. This always happens. I never manage to get somewhere on time. Ellen heaves a deep sigh and turns around, dressed in nothing more than her underwear. She has a nice body; very athletically build. She’s small, but cute. That is until she opens her big bitchy mouth. But I’m the one to say … We’re very much alike and it’s probably the reason why we are such good friends. Apart from the habitual backstabbing and gossiping, we always seem to end up at the exact same spot: next to each other. Must be a stereotypical cheerleading kind of friendship.
“I’m not even dressed yet, Mariana.” she emphasizes. “And I could end up getting sick if I get up on my bike with my hair wet. I can’t get sick. Do you want us to lose Nationals?”
Sure, that ancient old argument. She’s so full of herself. Always has been.
“Oh, right, like it all depends on you?” I smirk, clearly unimpressed, while crossing my arms in a defensive way.
She drops the towel and walks over to me, still wearing nothing more than those pink undies and a same-colored bra. I unconsciously sneak a peek. Killer abs she’s got.
“I happen to be captain of the Cheerios.”
Oh, God. She just loves to repeat that title to me. Every day again, one hundred times an hour, she needs to remind me of the fact that she ended up on top of the pyramid.
“Yeah, well, and I’m the bitch of the Cheerios, so you better hurry up.” I counter her comment, carrying some threatening persuasion.
I frown and have another look at my watch: “Damn, my mom is going to kill me.”
My family’s got quite the temper. That’s the thing with hispanic people. Put ‘em all together in one house and there’s a daily war going on. Also, it’s my dad’s birthday dinner this evening. One week late, but – well, the man’s got a busy schedule. And anything that’s about food, is of great importance to us, so tonight’s family reunion promised to be big and festive and … about all of us. Of course I’m late again – I should’ve known. I’m always late. But this time, mom’s not going to let me get away with a simple sorry.
Ellen suddenly and surprisingly softens up. I never tell anyone about my personal life, because … well, it’s personal. But she knows, deep down inside, that I don’t like to disappoint my family. Is that sympathy, hiding somewhere deep underneath her thick layers of bitchiness?
“Go! I’ll be fine.” she tells me, waving her hand casually.
Her words surprise me. The only times we didn’t drive home together was when one of us was sick. And with a coach like Edna, you need to be incapable of moving an inch without puking – or nearly dying – to be categorized sick.
“Are you sure? I … I guess I can come up with some excuse.”
The changing room is entirely empty apart from us. Everyone went home on time. Except us, we just had to blab in the shower until we were out of hot water. God, we’ll never learn.
She shakes her head randomly.
“No, it’s okay, Mariana. Don’t worry. What’s the worst thing that can happen, right?”
You could fall on your face and break your nose. And I’d land top spot on the Cheerios. Oh, wait. That was rude. Thank God I didn’t actually say it out loud. She smiles sweetly and that’s sort of weird. But I know she’s okay with it, so I pick up my bag from the cold tiles underneath my sneakers and in my hurry to get home, I vaguely and rapidly throw an ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’ across the room.
My bike’s where it always is: chained to the big tree on the left side of the entrance of the girl’s showers. My fingers dig inside of my jacket’s left pocket to discover the iPod I treasure like it’s my baby. Music, I need loud music. Just like during practice, it inspires; it sets the rhythm.
Dressed in our team sweats, I sit down on the saddle and start my impossible challenge to beat time. I’m deafened by a recent Lady Gaga song when my wheels race across the street that’s two more blocks away from the place I live. As soon as I realize just how fast I’m going, a proud smile takes over my face. If only Ellen could see, she would never be able to keep up. Her words echo through my mind: Captain of the Cheerios. Next, I heave an irritated sigh. Bitch. Coach Edna should’ve begged me to take that spot, but no, I guess that blonde with her fake, cute smile is the better poster girl.
In front of me, a familiar crossroad appears. The light is green, but that changes the second I’m close enough to cross. Just my luck. I sigh annoyed and hit the brakes hard. Sure, one might describe me as an impatient and rather quickly agitated person, but I call it eager and focussed.
Lady Gaga switches to Britney Spears. An amused smile appears once more. Nobody can ever know how much I secretly love Britney Spears. She’s my dirty little iPod secret. My lips start mouthing along with the lyrics I know from the heart. No cars are crossing the intersection in front of me. Not even pedestrians. There’s absolutely nobody to be seen. So basically, I’m wasting my time over nothing. Given: it is getting late, I guess most people are already home. Cheerleading practice always takes up half of my free moments. That means that by the time I get home, it’s usually gloaming. My eyes feel soar by the time I enter the well lit house of my parents. Rush hour always passes me by an hour – or an hour and a half. Besides, this isn’t exactly a busy road. It’s the point where Ellen and I separate ways, though. She goes left here, I cross the street.
Behind me, headlights color the asphalt around me yellow. A quick glance over my shoulder teaches me nothing: I’m blinded by the brightness. Impatience takes over my entire being as I sigh and curse while turning my eyes to the traffic light again. Still red. Still not safe to cross. How long can it take? Look on the bright side: at least I’m not the only one around here anymore.
On my left, there’s a lonely tree, covering a street light with its leafs. Next to it, a white cat wanders around. It sits down to stare at me with a judging look, patiently and frozen to the spot. It doesn’t bother me, though. I’d judge myself too. I lip sync some more lyrics.
A couple of seconds pass and then it happens: green! Finally, finally green. My heart actually skips a beat with joy and a childish smile magically appears on my face. But then the reality hits me: my mom is going to be furious. I’m already aware of that future prospect. The entire dining room is filled with relatives by now. My mom will go all ‘That’s not an excuse, you should’ve just left earlier’ on whatever I’ll come up with at the moment, which is entirely true of course. There will be judging looks. But there’s just no way that I’ll go down without putting up a fight. Mariana Diaz never goes down without putting up a fight.
As I smile softly over some lyrics from Mrs. Spears herself, I put my left foot on the pedal and push my weight off the ground. I’m determined to put my record ride to an end in a couple of minutes. But as I’m fully expecting to start gaining speed, my bike surprisingly doesn’t move at all. The false conviction pumps a brief sense of dizziness through my body. While the music blares through my ears, I frown deeply – all confused and startled. I don’t even fall over. I don’t get what’s happening – it’s like my bike’s glued to the ground. My eyes quickly linger to the asphalt, where there seems to have appeared a strange shadow in the reflection of the lights that came over me a minute ago. It’s a person. I recognize the shape of a person!
It all happens in the length of a second, but at the same time, the moment of confusion seems to last forever. Just as I try to look behind me, an arm finds its way around my left shoulder. It grabs my upper body forcefully, while a second one surprises me even more by putting a smelly cloth over my mouth. My head’s unmovable.
The unsuspected strike numbs me. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been so terrifyingly scared – even though I have no clue what’s happening. My heart starts racing uncontrollably and every muscle in my body trembles like crazy. I scream loudly, at least I think, because the music is still deafening my ears. My body gets pulled off the saddle I’m sitting on and while I still haven’t seen the person that’s holding on to me, my mind starts to get a little bit blurry. With my feet high up in the air, everything inside of me screams and orders to get the hell away from here. But I can’t. This person is aggressively stopping me.
I need to fight. I need to put up a freaking fight. Restricted by the position I’m in, I kick the person behind me as forcefully as possible – but nothing happens; he’s not letting go of me. I try to slap him, but I’m being held in such a smart way that I can’t really lash out properly. My elbows punch the flesh that’s pushed up against my back until they hurt, but after a couple of seconds, my movements start going slack. I feel so weird. So very, very faint, even though I’m hysterical. It’s that freaking smelly cloth, covering my mouth. There must be something on it. Something to …
I close my weary eyes for a second as the images around me twirl. The panic seems to fade out slowly, surprisingly. I wanted to cry a second ago, but that feeling has disappeared. That’s when my headphones pop out of my ears. Like I’ve been smoking ten joints in a row, my view hesitantly watches my iPod fall down on the hard ground underneath me. The sound of an roaring, old engine reaches my ears. I close my eyes again. And again. And again.
My breathing calms down. My body’s going numb as someone’s dragging it along towards the car. I can’t fight back anymore, there’s no strength left. Even if I wanted, my feet can no longer carry me. My bike fell over, so it seems, yet my eyes trick me into believing it’s floating around across the ground. Clouds trouble my sight. The traffic light, the cat, the trees along the road have all disappeared. I just feel so incredibly sleepy. Maybe if I just … If I just close my eyes for a second. Then it’ll be over.
As I slowly wake up, a headache takes over my entire thinking ability. My mind’s all blurry as my muscles can’t seem to move. The tiles I’m on feel cold and they smell. I don’t know where I am. I don’t even remember what happened. It feels like I’m hungover.
An exhausting feeling of dizziness disturbs my orientation as I take a careful look around. When I finally try to lift my arm to pet my hurting head, something stops me abruptly. A deep sigh precedes the turning of my head in the direction of my hands. There’s something holding me back. The blurriness finally seems to disappear after a couple of blinks and a strange image takes its form. A rope. There’s a brown, thick rope attached to me. Someone tied me up. I track down the fabric until it reaches a metal pin in the wall.
What the hell happened to me? I was on my way home. The lights. They were red.
Reality strikes me again. My eyes widen immensely and the panic I felt before has now returned. What happened? Where am I? Who did this to me?
My slack body crawls on its knees. It’s the best I can do for now.
I start panicking like hell once I gather that I’ve been kidnapped, there’s simply no other explanation. That thought scares me so tremendously that I instantly burst out into tears. Why would anyone ever take me with them?
As I try to orientate a little more, the terrible state of the room I’m in starts to dawn on me. This must be some sort of deserted room in a basement. Flaking, white walls close in on me. No window to be seen. This place can’t be bigger than an everyday sleeping room. The smell is terrible, like someone’s been peeing her for years and nobody ever cleaned up. The piles of dust and spider webs are the decoration of this dumb hole.
My stomach turns and turns until the nausea hits me. Damn, my mind’s still so blurry. In a shy attempt to escape, I yank the rope faintly, but nothing happens. Nothing will, even once I regain my full strength. It’s clear that this has been thought through by whoever did this. I’m not just attached to some random pin bashed into the wall of an abandoned room. No, this was designed to keep someone from getting out of this room. I get up on my waddling feet and squeeze my eyes shut as I hope that this headache will go away. All I can do is squeeze my eyes and sigh deeply in pain. My hair comes falling down my face. It’s messy – even though I just washed it after practice. Another inspecting look around. Only one door. It’s made from metal and there are three bars forming a see-through window in the upper part of it. Nobody gets out through there from the inside. But even if I wasn’t too afraid to go and check it out, the rope wouldn’t allow me to. It’s so short that I can barely stand up without having to bend over. I tell myself to calm down a little bit. Freaking out won’t do any good. But the feeling overwhelms me anyway. God, this can’t be happening. It’s simply not fair.
My sweats are all dirty, like I’ve been dragged through the mud. My knees feel sore.
As the eternal lasting minutes pass, I try multiple times to untie the rope. But time after time, I get reminded that I’m too weak. Rough attempts alternate the well thought-out ones. I start to cry a little bit louder with every one that fails, since every second that passes means there’s a bigger chance that the stranger who took me with him will appear. But I’m not a quitter, so I simply start over again, as soon as I’ve picked up the little pieces of courage and hope that are left. I have to get out of here. I need to go home.
A deep gasp freezes me up: my dad’s birthday dinner. I remember.
My mom. My mom’s going to be so mad for not coming home. I promised her that I would be there on time.