Melissa Niska

This couldn’t be happening to me; it just wasn’t possible.  How could I have gone from a faceless number among the masses to a rare commodity so quickly?  In the grand scheme of things it took only a heartbeat for a stranger to change my life; wasn’t that usually the way of it though?  So why was I surprised?

I breathed in a big lungful of stagnant trunk air, a cocktail of rubber, oily rags and anti-freeze; if bottled, not a soul would buy it and I couldn’t help laughing at the thought.  Eau de Car Care; not even a marketing genius could get that one past Yves St. Laurent.

The laugh changed from a soft chuckle to a slightly crazed staccato, and I focused for all I was worth to rein my mind in from the dark recesses in which it wanted to hide.  No time for madness, I had to figure out a means of escape and for that I needed my wits.

Based on the uninterrupted pace at which the car was moving I deduced we were on a freeway, but where to I hadn’t a single guess, irrelevant though the destination was.  I was in utter darkness and didn’t know how long we’d been traveling before I woke up from the nap Drahomir had forced on me.

My pupils were fully dilated and still I couldn’t see what was in the trunk that I could use to escape or defend myself.  With a sigh I decided that when left weaponless, charge the lion. 

Turning on my side like a coffee grinder, I pointed my feet at what I suspected was the back of the rear seats and like a piston my legs shot forward and struck the target.  The car swerved for a moment before being corrected as a string of muffled curses filtered through the seats.

I pounded my feet against the seat, sweat breaking out across my skin and stinging my eyes and still I kicked.  After what seemed like ages to me, but was probably more accurately ten minutes, I felt the car change directions and slow down.

After a series of stops and turns he parked, killing the engine, the door opening and closing before several more minutes crept by.  In wide eyed anticipation, my breathing gone shallow, I waited for him to pop the trunk at which time I’d… what?  What would I do? 

My hands were tied and I had no idea where we were.  He was stronger than me, undoubtedly faster and I didn’t know if he was armed on top of it all.  The longer I waited the more adrenaline drained from my blood, leaving me weary to the bone and my eyelids felt heavier as the minutes ticked by. 

When the trunk lid finally sprang open it startled me as my first kick against the seat backs must have startled him, and a small yip escaped my lips.  He leaned in and reached for me, his large hands seeking to gain purchase on me as I squirmed and thrashed to stay as far from him as possible. 

With a frustrated growl he lunged forward and grasped one ankle, using it to pull me toward him.  I lashed out with the other foot, connecting with his bicep, his chest and unfortunately the edge of the trunk a time or two.  He managed to grip my upper arm and between that and his hold on my ankle he managed to drag me out of the trunk.  Turning, he quickly moved the five feet that separated the trunk from an open motel door, and after crossing the threshold, he closed it firmly behind him. 

He dropped me on the bed before ducking back out to quickly close the trunk.  I bounced against the mattress and let it launch me to my feet.  When he came back in I ran at him, slamming my shoulder into his sternum, which drove him back into the closed door.  I knew he’d anticipated my reaction when his hands were already partway up to block my attack.

“God damn it woman!” he snapped, gripping my shoulders and holding me at arm’s length. I turned my head left to right and tried to land a bite on one hand and then the other until it became very cartoon-like. 

“Let me go!” I shouted, leaning toward him with the hope that the shorter the distance my words had to travel, the harder their impact would be.  He silenced me with a single sharp shake and a very feral snarl.

“I am not going to hurt you!” he said, scowling down at me. 

“Then let me go.”

“I can’t, I have to protect you.  I don’t care if you don’t believe anything I’ve told you, you soon will.”  With that ominous prediction hanging in the air he moved me backward and sat me down in a chair.  “Eat something,” he ordered, motioning at the fast food bag on the table where I sat.

“I’m not hungry,” I said, my stomach growling at the mention of food and making me a liar.

“Of course you’re not.”  He sat down on the bed, leaning back against the headboard and crossing his feet at the ankle.  His cobalt stare weighed on me, watching every move as I reached into the bag with tied hands and extracted a paper wrapped burger. 

After peeling the pickles off I tucked in, devouring every bite and wondering if anything had ever tasted so good.  Cheap food and a diluted soda washed down the last of the Eau de Car Care that had coated my mouth; I was happy to trade one flavor for the other.

Wiping my mouth with a paper napkin I sat back and met his blue gaze with my own hazel one, his pressing down on me like a hand, and with a sigh I looked away. “Where are we anyway?”

“Mojave,” he answered, folding his arms across his chest.  “It’s about the halfway point so it was a good place to stop for the night.”

“Halfway to where?”

“Our destination.”

“Fine, be obstinate,” I said, shrugging one shoulder as though it didn’t matter one iota to me, which I was sure he knew was a lie.  “What else can you tell me about my parents?  I’m fond of fiction and bedtime stories are always nice.”  My voice was sharp and dripped with sarcasm I could almost taste.

He climbed from the bed and walked toward me, looming speechlessly over me for a moment before gripping my arm and dragging me to my feet.  Pulling me toward the bed he pushed me down and I again bounced on the mattress.

With a heavy sigh he turned and moved the chair from which I had been evicted, placing it in front of the door and sitting down as an obvious sentinel. “Good night, Rain,” he said, flipping the lights off, and I simply sat for several minutes, amazed at his dismissal of me and frustrated at the bodily barricade he’d become.  

With an annoyed sigh I flopped back and stared up into the gloom.  The parking lot lights edged the polyester curtains, casting the room into eerie shadow as sleep inevitably caught me in its web.