Tawny awoke to an unfamiliar rancid stench assaulting her nostrils. She struggled to cover her nose but couldn't move her arms. Bile spilled into her mouth and pooled around her tongue, gagging her. Something was covering her mouth. This was all wrong. Where was she?
Tawny looked around, she was sprawled on a cracked, damp concrete floor next to an old, soiled mattress. Duct tape held her legs and arms. Her heart began pummeling her chest. She couldn't breath. Hot tears stung her face. She had to relax, take slow deep breaths. A slight movement to her right startled her. She strained her neck and was able to make out a small, unconscious form on the mattress. Tawny managed to shift her tiny bound frame to where she could see. The form on the mattress let out a low moan. It was a girl, probably about her own age. None of this made sense. She wanted her mom. Tawny closed her eyes and tried to remember the last time she had spoken to her.
There was a knock on her bedroom door.
"Go away Mom, I don't want to talk about it!"
"Her mother opened the door and sat on her bed. "Tawny honey, I know you're upset about tonight, but you knew the rules for the computer. You are not allowed to have a "MyPlace" account. When my sister called and told me she had stumbled upon your webpage, I had no choice but to ground you. There will be other sleepovers. You do understand, don't you?"
Tawny stood and faced her mother, every pore on her body seeping defiance. "Mom, Everybody goes on "MyPlace". You're making me a social outcast!"
"You"re only thirteen. A lot of young girls get into trouble on those sites. Who is this boy Matt you've been chatting with?"
"How did you find out about him?" Tawny looked down and picked at the purple polish on her nails.
"I will always be older and wiser, don't ever forget that. Now spill it, who is this boy?" Her mother stood up and placed her arms around her.
"He's thirteen and lives in New York. How cool is that?" Tawny looked up and searched her mother's face for a reaction. "He's in the eighth grade too. Matt says my braces make me look older than I really am. He even called me hot! None of the boys at school ever even look at me!"
"How do you know this Matt is really who he says he is? I want a phone number tomorrow so I can contact his parents."
"Yeah right Mom, he's really some creepy old guy who just wants to rape and murder me. I think I would know better. Matt actually gets me. His parents are way worse than you guys, so chill. They never let him out of their sight."
"You haven't even been on a date with a boy; how can you think you know so much?"
"That's not my fault, it's yours! I'm not allowed to date until I'm sixteen, remember!" Tawny flopped on the bed and buried her face in her pillow.
"Tawny, stop trying to grow up so fast. Being thirteen can be a lot of fun. You should try it sometime. I'll call you down when dinner's ready." She walked out and closed the door behind her.
"AAAGH! I can't stand you!" Tawny threw her pillow at the door as it closed. Her mother was so lame. Like she would have been caught dead at some stupid sleepover.
As soon as dinner was over she had climbed onto the roof and down onto the porch railing. Matt and his parents were only in town for one day and she wasn't about to miss meeting him.
She heard the sirens first. Then she caught a glimpse of a flashing red beacon through the sliver of a window near the ceiling. A few moments later the door splintered open. Searing shards of light blinded her. She was surrounded by voices calling her name. A woman knelt next to her and told her she was safe. The tape was removed from her mouth, causing blood to ooze from her bruised, swollen lips. Tawny shaded her eyes with her newly freed hands and watched as paramedics placed the unconscious girl on a stretcher.
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