Safe

The legs of the chair I am slumped in scrape against the cold tile floor with a sharp, metallic shriek. 

‘Hey, don’t get too rough. You’re gonna scare her.’ 

If I weren’t still in shock, I would probably roll my eyes. As if a little jolt like that was enough to freak me out. Yet I can’t bear to drag my gaze away from the sad-looking girl who is looking at me from across the room.

‘We don’t have time for these games,’ the man behind me hisses into my ear. His breath reeks of menthol cigarettes and coffee. I lamely wonder if he would like a mint and fumble for my bag. 

Oh, of course. My bag is not here. 

I turn my head limply and raise my eyes to meet his. Sorry, I think. He scoffs at me as if he heard my apology and joins his friend opposite me across the table. Behind them, the sad girl stares blankly at me and blinks.

‘Look, we don’t want to keep you here,’ the other, friendlier man says. ‘We just need to know what happened.’ He has salt and pepper hair and large, tanned hands. I study them and wonder how my tiny fingers would feel being held by warm, safe hands like that. His frustrated partner bangs his fist on the table, probably to try and startle me again. 

‘Now’s the time to talk—while we can still help you. So, tell us. What happened to Benny?’

I blink at him. Behind him, the girl on the wall blinks too. On full display inside her glass frame, she looks like a mess. There is blood on her clothes and her hair hangs in matted clumps around her face. Her eyes meet mine. Startled, I turn my blank gaze back to the cranky detective. He sits back in his chair with a sigh.

I know they’re playing the whole good cop/bad cop routine, but there is genuine kindness in both of their eyes mixed with frustration, concern, impatience, and probably a lifetime of sitting at this very table across from hundreds of sad-looking girls in worse shape than me. 

‘You don’t need to be scared to talk to us,’ Mr Nice Guy offers. This time his friend rolls his eyes for me. 

‘Don’t patronise her, man,’ he defends. 

I feel relieved until he puts me down. ‘Look at her, she’s terrified.’

A whimper escapes my mouth, but it’s only to prevent me from screaming at him. Bad Cop looks at me with a satisfied smile. That’s right, I think sullenly. You’ve cracked the code. I’m terrified, right? Just a sad little girl too scared to speak.

There’s an old saying—something about the truth setting you free. Someone needs to punch the guy who wrote that. It’s a pretty safe assumption that he was never in the same boat as me. I will either be outside of this room, trapped by my truth, or I will be in here with Tweedledee and Tweedledum. I’ll stick with door number two.

I slump further into the chair and look back at the girl with sad eyes. A single tear tracks its way down her cheek like an invisible snail sliding down her face. My hand searches for my bag again. Maybe I can offer her a tissue?

That’s right. My bag is not here.

I look back at her to shrug and apologise. To my horror, though I am limp in my own seat, she is sitting straight up in hers, staring at me with bulging eyes. I feel my throat begin to fill with saliva. The two men exchange curious glances, but they are beginning to blur in my vision. My eyes are focused on the girl who I now recognise as my reflection in the interrogation room mirror. Her mouth begins to open. 

Then everything went black.

I wake in a hospital bed, wonder where my bag might be, and remember where it is. 

It is locked in Benny’s truck and he won’t be giving it back any time soon. 

I feel a tear roll down my cheek. I would wipe my eye but as I raise my wrist something prevents it from moving. I glance down at the handcuff and smile.

Outside the window, little birds fly off into the sunlight. I cannot fly with them, but I can stay here in this bed and be safe for a while.

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