Angelica scrutinized the unfamiliar image in the mirror. A gorgeous woman replaced the naive girl she’d left behind on the farm.
“Angel, let’s go. We got some dancing to do. Some guys to meet.” Brenda stood, miniature purse in hand, at the apartment door. Angelica hated her childhood nickname, Angel.
“I hope I can still walk after dancing in these shoes. Maybe I should change....”
“Don’t you dare! The shoes are part of the look. Besides, if you meet Mr. Right, it will be worth it.” Brenda glanced at her watch. “Hurry, or we’ll miss the bus.”
Angelica exited the bus, staring at the neon signs illuminating the city. Working only a few blocks from where she now stood, she’d never noticed most of the businesses now apparent in colorful lights. She passed by the dark, locked doors of her favorite deli and the corner bookstore she loved. Overtaken by mixed feelings of excitement and dread, Angelica took a deep breath and followed her friend into the nightclub.
Unable to hear anything Brenda said, Angelica studied the dance floor, feeling guilty for the alcohol in her glass. Yesterday it would have been illegal for her to be here; today it was a matter of conscience. Pushing her guilt down deeper into her soul, she reminded herself that this was why she moved to the city – to escape the limitations of a small town and her parent’s religion.
“Want to dance?” The young man’s ogling eyes disturbed Angelica but before she could respond, Brenda answered for her. In a matter of moments, she found herself on the dance floor with a total stranger. A stranger named Brady.
Throughout the evening the two girls danced and talked to Brady and his friend Lars. Angelica enjoyed the dancing and the pleasant conversation, yet a still, quiet voice gnawed at her conscience. With each drink, she found it easier to ignore, although it never ceased.
In the ladies’ room Angelica expressed her hesitation to Brenda. “I really think we should stick to the original plan and take a taxi home instead of leaving with strangers. We don’t know these guys.”
“Oh, Angel, you really do live up to your nickname, don’t you? This is the original plan. The taxi was only a back-up if we didn’t meet some guys we liked.” Brenda nudged her arm. “Brady’s a good-looking guy. Are you sure you want the night to be over?”
“It did go fast, but I think we should have them meet us somewhere public a few times before we go anywhere with them. Get to know them first.” She could hear the slur in her own words.
“We came to find some guys.” Brenda’s scolding tone informed Angelica that she wouldn’t back down. “We’re going to a 24-hour restaurant. Is that public enough for you?”
In the quiet of the restaurant, Angelica’s conscience still persisted. She shouldn’t be here. She could still take a taxi home. She focused on the excitement of the evening; the music, the dancing, the fun. How could this all be as wrong as her parents so adamantly insisted? She’d moved to the city to move away from their influence and would not let it control her life.
As Lars drove away from the restaurant, Brady moved closer to Angelica in the back seat. Should she let it slide, or move away? Where should she draw the line?
Lars pulled into an unfamiliar apartment complex. “Anyone for a nightcap?” Brenda eagerly accepted the invitation for both of them.
Inside the apartment, Angelica repeatedly removed Brady’s hands. When he grabbed her and started to force himself, she escaped into the hall. Where could she turn? She didn’t know this part of the city. The truth of that statement hit her. She didn’t know where she was, but she didn’t know the city’s dangers, either. Perhaps her parents had been right. But where could she run for refuge?
“Whoa, there.” A familiar voice broke through her fearful thoughts as she collided with someone. She looked up to see the friendly, yet worried face of her co-worker, Jill. “Angelica? What’s wrong?”
Angelica glanced in fear towards Brady behind her, his slurred speech calling her name.
“Come into my apartment, where you’ll be safe and tell me what happened. You can sleep here and I’ll take you home after church tomorrow.” Jill’s words soothed Angelica as she followed her into another apartment. Angelica’s head matched Brady’s pounding on the door, but she was safe.
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