The aroma of corn dogs and cotton candy filled Marie’s senses as she drew in the night air. A variety of edibles adorned the venders’ booths throughout the carnival. Marie strolled past, nonchalant, pretending not to be enticed; the temptation was too great.
“Oh, I haven’t had a churro in years.” A cloud of cinnamon and sugar rained down the front of her blouse, a hint of a smile tipped the corner of her lips.
“Too bad you didn’t win that teddy bear.” Stacy began to laugh. “The look on the guy’s face.”
“I thought he had moved out of the way. And it didn’t really hit him square.”
Soon they were both laughing at the events of the evening.
“I’m so glad I decided to come.” Marie sighed with satisfaction. “I needed a night out, thanks.”
“Someone had to drag you out of your hole,” Stacy guffawed. “It’s been four months, you need to live again.”
An awkward silence stifled the moment, Marie’s face twisted with despondence.
“I … I’m so sorry.” Stacy embraced her friend. “I didn’t mean….”
“No, you’re right. It’ just that Steve would …” She put her hand to her quivering lips, her dampened lashes blinked.
“Hey … at least we had fun tonight,” Stacy smiled. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride home.”
“No thanks, I think I’ll walk. Clear my mind.”
Marie turned and headed toward the beach on the other side of the festival. Deep in thought, she made her way through the maze of games and rides, oblivious to the flickering lights and the call from the carnies. The sight of a near by figure moving close startled her.
“Are you okay?” The voice sounded familiar.
Her eyes focused first on his badge, and then turned to the face. “Jeff?” Her expression brightened. “What are you doing here?”
“They always beef up patrols when the fiesta rolls into town.” A grin spread across his face. He brushed some cinnamon from her face with his finger. “And besides, I heard you wanted one of these.” He held up a fluffy, brown teddy bear.
“It’s for you.” Jeff tucked it into Marie’s grasp.
“That’s so sweet.” She gazed, enamored with the young patrol officer. “Thank you.”
The moist sand brought comfort to Marie’s aching feet. She meandered along the shore clutching her shoes and stuffed toy in her arms, admiring the stars. Confusion and despair welled up within her. She paused, allowing the cool ocean water to lap around her legs.
“Lord,” she said aloud, “Why have you turned your back on me? I don’t know what to do?” Her emotions began to spill in an uncontrollable catharsis. “I’m hurt … I feel so alone. I just can’t seem to work this out. What do you want from me.”
“Do you always talk to yourself?”
A silhouetted man approached. “Jeff?” she blurted. “I’m praying. Trying to make sense of things.”
“Why are you out here? … Alone.”
“I’m heading home.” Marie stepped away from the water’s edge. “I just got sidetracked.”
“I bet you were hoping I’d follow you.” Jeff advanced toward her, his eyes widening. “I’ve seen how you look at me. And with Steve gone you can have what you’ve been dreaming of.”
“Stop. You’re … you’re scaring me.” She backed away.
He lunged at her. Marie turned and ran along the shoreline. Fear overwhelmed her mind; she sprinted without thought or direction. A hand grabbed her shoulder.
Marie screamed, but the roar from the pounding surf muffled her cries
“Oh God. Please don’t do this.” She trembled, anxiety consumed her.
“God can’t help you now. You’re mine.”
“Why are you doing this?” She struggled to escape, but to no avail.
Jeff ripped her shirt exposing her bra. Marie resisted, trying to cover herself up. He forced her to the ground, throwing her shoes and carnival toy aside.
Sand caked her tear soaked face. “No … No … please.”
“Don’t fight. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Marie succumbed to helplessness.
Jeff straddled her limp body. “This won’t be so bad.”
A light swept across dunes catching Marie’s forsaken eyes.
“What’s that?” a voice called. “What’s going on over there?”
Jeff turned and ran down the beach.
A man approached with caution. “Are you alright?” He squatted close to the cowering young lady. “I’m calling for help.” He reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone.
Sobbing, Marie curled into a fetal position. “God … Please … Are you still there?”
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