thank you, officer

She was young – too young to be in the back bed of a pickup truck parked on a road that went nowhere.  She was entirely disinterested in her companion and equally disinterested in her fate.

The older boy had taken off her clothes and was fumbling with his own.  Bored and detached, she lay still and focused on the chill of the night air on her skin.  Lights flashed across the darkness above the young couple.  A car pulled alongside the truck and rolled to a stop. More beams of light swiped the black night and the couple held still. The boy jammed his sweaty hand tightly over the mouth of the young girl.  He looked down at her with a threat in his eyes. She knew that the boy would not hesitate to hurt her and so she held everything, even her breath, to avoid moving at all.

The car door opened and the crackly squawk of a police radio drifted out.  A smaller beam of light approached and swept through the truck cab and then down into the bed where she and the boy lay.  The boy tightened his grip on her mouth.  She felt slow panic swallowing her. There was nowhere for them to hide now, and her pale skin gleamed brightly even through the thick humidity of that summer night.

The police officer found the couple with his flashlight and chuckled softly at his discovery. In a slow drawl that rang with mean spirited mischief, the officer ordered them out of the truck bed.  The boy released the girl, and she made a grab for her clothes, but the officer barked at her not to touch any of the “possible evidence.”  She choked at the idea of being arrested and climbed out of the truck.  The boy, still dressed, jumped to the ground after her and stood looking off into the fields along the road, as if he had nothing to do with the naked girl standing next to him.  She stood, bare and ashamed, on the gritty tarmac while the officer walked all around her and inspected her body with his flashlight.  The officer stuck his hands between her thighs to force apart her legs and motioned for her to uncross her arms.  He held the light and his eyes on the girl while he questioned the boy about their activities.    He asked for intimate details of the encounter while the girl stood, legs and arms apart, shaking with fear and humiliation.   The boy answered, anger occasionally breaking his voice.  The officer scolded the boy for being foolish in his choice of location.  Then there was a long silence while the officer gazed at the girl some more.   The officer chided the girl for choosing such young boys and told her she should find a real man, like the officer.  And then he told them to pack it up and go home before he arrested both of them.   The girl thanked the officer for letting them go.

The officer got back into his car and waited for them to gather the girl’s clothes and get into the truck.  They drove away, the officer following behind for a while. When the headlights of the police car disappeared from their rear view mirror, the boy stopped the truck on the shoulder of the road.  He yelled at the girl for giving away their hiding spot and called her names for letting the officer touch her and look at her.  He spit on her and punched her in the ribs and smacked her head.  She tried to shield herself from the harshest blows and wept quietly.  Then, with a rage of pure disgust, the boy pushed her out of the truck and drove away.

Once she was certain the boy was not coming back to punish her more, she straightened herself up a little bit.  And because she knew no one was waiting for her, she took her time walking home, her sobs matching the steady wail of the summer cicadas.  She thought long and hard about the existence that seemed to stretch in front of her and whether that was, in fact, all that remained to be had of life; whether she could continue to be so careless with her own destiny.  When she finally arrived at the doorstep to her house, she knew that if things continued as they were it wouldn’t be long before she ended up dead along the side of some country road.

So began her plans for escape.

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