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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Appointment (02/09/12)

TITLE: A Broken Bit of Branch
By Debbie Roome


The air is salty and thick as I press into the shadows. Matted ferns and saplings line the beachfront and itís easy to wiggle into a hiding spot. Moonlight catches the hands of my watch and I see I have a half hour to wait.

Mom and Dad would be furious if they knew what I was doing. Iíve heard the lecture a thousand times. ďDonít accept people you donít know as friends on Facebook. Never give out personal details on the internet. Itís not safe to meet someone you met online.Ē

I know all that and thatís why Iím early. Thatís why Iím hiding to make sure my dream date is all he seems to be. I have an appointment to meet him at 11pm and canít wait. I shift a little as a fern frond tickles my neck.

Blake lives fifty miles away and says he is moving to my town in spring. Heís tall with golden blonde hair and the whitest teeth Iíve ever seen. I really hope heís for real.

Thereís a rustle behind me and I catch sight of a rat scuttling past, evil eyes glinting. Shivers crawl up my spine. What if it bites me? But itís gone, more afraid of me than I of it I guess. ďKeep me safe, Lord,Ē I pray silently.

Thereís an old, bleached bench at the top of the beach, weathered by decades of salty air and coastal winds. Thatís where weíve arranged to meet. ďI canít wait to hold you,Ē he messaged earlier. ďIíve been wanting to hug you forever.Ē

ďMe too,Ē I sent back. ďWe seem to be made for each other.Ē

Iíve heard stories where internet relationships blossom into fairytale romances. I hope our meeting will be the start of a great love story. Of course there are doubts. Iíve read the stories, seen the movies where paedophiles and predators set up appointments with young girls and do terrible things to them. Iím 99 percent sure that Blake isnít one of those freaks.

Itís 10:55 and my skin is damp with salt spray that drifts up the beach. A cicada whistles nearby and warm fingers of wind ruffle my hair. A minute later I see a shadow walking along the beach. The figure is male, tall and slender with broad shoulders and Iím sure itís him. Sure enough, he changes course and heads towards the bench. The moonlight drains colour leaving him pale and mysterious.

He looks around, checks his watch and sits. His profile is familiar and Iím overjoyed that heís here. That heís not a wrinkled old pervert. My mind fills with thoughts of how Iím going to brag about this. About how careful I was, and that my online romance was real. I take a step forward to reveal myself and feel something grabbing me from behind. Adrenaline floods my gut and then I realise itís just a branch hooked in my shirt.

I donít want to spoil the moment by calling out so twist around to unhook myself. Itís poked itself through the lacy trim of my top and I jiggle it, trying not to damage the fine fabric.

ďSelena!Ē His voice calls my name above the pounding surf but I donít answer. I canít start a great romance while impaled on a branch. Frustrated, I snap some twigs and ease the bits out. It takes a few minutes and as Iím about to step out of hiding, I see someone walking down the beach. Heís obviously an older man and his profile is menacing and angry.

ďSheís not here?Ē

ďNo.Ē Blakeís voice hardens. ďShe must have taken fright. I thought for sure we had this one.Ē He runs a hand through his hair. ďAll those months of sweet-talking her online. What a waste.Ē

My heart freezes in my chest as I battle to suck in air.

No! It canít be!

What I thought was an appointment to meet the love of my life was actually a set up to use me as a sex slave or worse. My body shakes uncontrollably as I realise how close I came to revealing myself. ďThank you, God,Ē I whisper. ďFor protecting me from myself as well as them.Ē

I wait an hour to ensure theyíre gone. Then tuck a bit of broken branch into my pocket as I creep back to my bicycle. Iíll keep it as a reminder Ė not only of my stupidity Ė but of Godís amazing love and protection.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Francy Judge 02/17/12
I enjoyed this suspenceful story with a twist at the end. Very well-written.
Helen Curtis02/18/12
Terrifying! I am so glad she was safe. Really well written and the suspense was kept the whole way through the piece.

Hmm, I should mention that I met my hubby on the net! My mother was terrified he was an 'axe murderer" as my brother so kindly pointed out usually hang around on line...trying to reassure her, I rolled my eyes and said, "He's not an axe murderer, he's a butcher!" Needless to say he's wonderful and we're very happily married!!

Anyway, I digress. A wonderful story and well written. Well done.
C D Swanson 02/19/12
Great job with this. I am so happy the ending was a "good one." Nicely done.
God Bless~
marcella franseen02/21/12
I was very nervous for her! :) I'm so glad the story did not have a sad ending. As fantastic as the internet is, it can be a very scary place for kids, especially ones who believe they know better than their parents (which I'm afraid are most :))
Cheryl von Drehle02/22/12
Very well written...strong beginning and finishing and spot on the topic. And how timely for this current culture. Would be good to find a way to reach a teenage audience with this tale.
Nancy Bucca02/23/12
Out of all the entries I've read so far, this definitely wins the prize for best thriller. A well-deserved win all around.
Michael Throne02/24/12
Very good story. Great tension, nice flow, really well written. This is one of my favorites.