A small mound of blankets on the bed trembled ever so slightly, catching the attention of Officer Valdez. He inched his way over to the far side of the room and lowered his service revolver.
“Captain…I found her!” He snatched back the ratty pink blanket unveiling a tiny, dirty, terrified three year old. The child squirmed, willing herself deeper into the mattress as he reached down to scoop her up and carry her to safety. “It’s okay, Alex. You’re safe now, baby.”
Alex blinked hard. Safe? She wasn’t safe that day twenty years ago, and she wasn’t safe now. She clearly remembered being carried out of the crime scene—the way they looked as she clung tightly to her rescuer, peering over his shoulder. Mommy and daddy didn’t move. They just stared at the ceiling without blinking and there was red stuff all over the walls. She never saw them again.
Snap…the pictures in her memory emerged at will, taking Alex always deeper into the abyss.
The creep slammed his shot glass down on the table, startling her. “Lemme see what I paid for, darlin’…” Alex grabbed the vodka bottle, chugging back as much as she could stomach. The last thing she remembered was the stench of his breath as she lay motionless, staring at the ceiling without blinking.
Snap...one more john for the picture book.
She shivered, avoiding eye contact with the 20 or so other women in the room. This was her third trip to the clinic since her fifteenth birthday; she knew the drill. Don’t look at anyone, or they’ll tell you their life story…hers was unspeakable.
“Number 17…” They didn’t use names here; only numbers. Alex shuffled toward the grey doors. She moved through the examinations and the next two waiting rooms, staring at the floor. Three hours later it was her turn.
The cold steel table was not so bad, now that the drugs were kicking in. Her thoughts gave way to the abyss as the vacuum gently tugged against her insides. “God…take care of her…” She stared at the ceiling without blinking.
Snap…Angelica, the angel that never was.
She mindlessly watched the roaches crawling over a half eaten pizza on the nightstand. She hated waking up, head pounding from the booze and guts screaming for one more little drop from the needle. She needed that drop.
Alex rolled from the bed pushing the dead weight of a tattooed arm off her stomach. He mumbled something unintelligible, obviously still in a stupor. She quietly donned her clothes and made her exit, grabbing the little white packet and a fifty dollar bill from the coffee table on her way out. At least this one always left her something good. It was the closest thing she knew to love.
In the alley a few blocks away, she crouched behind a dumpster, carefully unrolling her kit…one good vein still left. Within minutes, a warm surge begin flowing toward her brain; it was the only time she felt alive enough to pray, and her prayers only lasted seconds.
“God, it’s me, Alex. I’m sorry…I’m so bad. Please love me anyway, no one else loves me.” The needle fell from her arm, tinkling as it landed against the hard pavement. She fumbled through her haze to retrieve it. Clutching the empty needle in one hand and her purse in the other, she stumbled out of the alleyway.
Her body felt heavy. “God…I want to see my babies.” Alex crumpled to the sidewalk and rolled over onto her back. The sky was brilliant blue; fluffy clouds etched designs in her mind. She lay gazing up at the sky without blinking.
Snap… “Angel wings…God…”
Snap…snap, snap. “How long has she been here?” Snap. “I’ve got enough pictures.”
“Wonder who she is.”
“A prostitute…we’ll never find her family.” He bent down to retrieve the purse. “Hey…look at this…” He pulled out a small tattered bible, and opened it. “It says something here.” The inscription caught him off guard.
“Come on, what’s it say?”
“Ah…” he cleared his throat struggling for composure. “Sweet Alex, God is everywhere, even in the beds of strangers. He’s wherever you are, and He’ll never leave you. Look to the sky, you’ll see him. He’s waiting to hold you in the shadow of His wings. Love, Sister Ann”
Snap. “Look at her eyes. She found Him.” Snap. Snap. “I’ll just get these pictures developed; then we can find Sister Ann. You ok?”
“Ya…It’s just…her eyes.”
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