Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Appointment (02/09/12)
TITLE: A Broken Bit of Branch
By Debbie Roome
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Mom and Dad would be furious if they knew what I was doing. I’ve heard the lecture a thousand times. “Don’t accept people you don’t know as friends on Facebook. Never give out personal details on the internet. It’s not safe to meet someone you met online.”
I know all that and that’s why I’m early. That’s why I’m hiding to make sure my dream date is all he seems to be. I have an appointment to meet him at 11pm and can’t 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. He’s tall with golden blonde hair and the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. I really hope he’s for real.
There’s 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 it’s gone, more afraid of me than I of it I guess. “Keep me safe, Lord,” I pray silently.
There’s an old, bleached bench at the top of the beach, weathered by decades of salty air and coastal winds. That’s where we’ve arranged to meet. “I can’t wait to hold you,” he messaged earlier. “I’ve been wanting to hug you forever.”
“Me too,” I sent back. “We seem to be made for each other.”
I’ve 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. I’ve read the stories, seen the movies where paedophiles and predators set up appointments with young girls and do terrible things to them. I’m 99 percent sure that Blake isn’t one of those freaks.
It’s 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 I’m sure it’s 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 I’m overjoyed that he’s here. That he’s not a wrinkled old pervert. My mind fills with thoughts of how I’m 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 it’s just a branch hooked in my shirt.
I don’t want to spoil the moment by calling out so twist around to unhook myself. It’s poked itself through the lacy trim of my top and I jiggle it, trying not to damage the fine fabric.
“Selena!” His voice calls my name above the pounding surf but I don’t answer. I can’t 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 I’m about to step out of hiding, I see someone walking down the beach. He’s obviously an older man and his profile is menacing and angry.
“She’s not here?”
“No.” Blake’s voice hardens. “She must have taken fright. I thought for sure we had this one.” He runs a hand through his hair. “All those months of sweet-talking her online. What a waste.”
My heart freezes in my chest as I battle to suck in air.
No! It can’t 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. “Thank you, God,” I whisper. “For protecting me from myself as well as them.”
I wait an hour to ensure they’re gone. Then tuck a bit of broken branch into my pocket as I creep back to my bicycle. I’ll keep it as a reminder – not only of my stupidity – but of God’s amazing love and protection.
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