The loud shrill of the car horn was echoing through the night along the tree-lined street, sending a curious and uncanny feeling among the neighbors living there. One by one, a curtains parted, blinds lifted a bit and doors opened as almost everyone was wondering what was going on inside the red Camaro that was parked crookedly under one large magnolia tree, in front of the house with a front porch.
The porch light came on and illuminated the street, bathing the car in a sparkling halo of light.
The door opened and a girl, barely in her teens, peeked out and then boldly stepped off the porch and walked determinedly down the sidewalk to the car. With her hands on her hips, she stood near the end of the walk, staying clear of the curb and the young man inside.
When he saw her walking towards him, saw her hands on her hips, frowning, he let go of the car horn, and wound down the window. With a big smile, he said, “Hello, Katie. I missed you today. Why weren’t you in school?”
“You know very well why I wasn’t in school and you are not supposed to be here right now so leave.”
In an instant, his smile turned into a frown, and he slowly put his hand on the door handle, gaging her mood and the time it would take to step out, grab her and take her into the car. His heart began to pound heavily, as his mind raced to try to sort out what he wanted to be true, and what he knew was true.
“My dad is going to call the police, Jimmy. I don’t want you to get in trouble but you have to leave NOW.”
“But I just want to talk to you. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I really don’t know.”
Katie squinted at him in the dim lights from the streetlamps, trying to determine if he truly was serious or if this was another one of his ploys to get her to think he was a good guy. Which he was not.
“Just come and sit with me…I promise all I want to do is talk. “ And then, an afterthought, “I love you, Katie.”
Before she could react, he was out of the car and lunging towards her. She tried to turn and run back to the house, but he grabbed her long hair and jerked her to him. Still holding her hair, he grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the car, trying to force her into through the driver’s seat. She fought hard, and the more she struggled, the tighter his grip until tears came to her eyes from the pain in her head.
“Daddy…!” she yelled, as she tried to get out of his grip. She ducked under his arm, and his elbow knocked her to the ground as a man came running out of the house towards them.
“Let her go, Jimmy. The police are on their way.”
In an instant, Jimmy let go of Katie’s arm, but held her hair firmly in his grip. He kept hold of the clump of hair as he jumped back into the car, shutting the door, her long hair getting caught firmly in the process. She tried to stand, but her hair pulled tight and for the first time that evening, she became afraid. Even last week, when she told him she didn’t want to see him anymore and he smacked her with the back of his hand, she was angry more than afraid.
But now with her hair caught in the door, the fear enveloped her and she thought she would get sick. Just as her dad caught her arm, pulling her back to protect her, Jimmy pushed the gas pedal and the car lurched forward, taking Katie along with it. His mind raced as he just realized what he had done. Out of the side mirror he saw Katie dangling from the door, her feet dragging along the road, her hands grasping at the doorknob, and she was screaming.
In the rearview mirror, she saw her father in the middle of the street, chasing him. In the distance, he heard the sirens of several police cars. He slowed long enough to open the car door, releasing her hair, and that’s when he noticed that she was laying in the street behind him, the clump of her hair dropping from the door onto the street.
Slamming the door shut, he sped off into the darkness, trying to get away before the police came. He knew now that he was in trouble, even more so than last week. He had ignored the restraining order that had been delivered to him yesterday, and his heart pumped hard as he watched the body of his girlfriend shrink in the distance. He drove until he reached the interstate. He knew he couldn’t go home, so the only option he felt he had was to get out of town, as fast as he could.
As he pulled onto the interstate, catching up with the speed of the cars, he wondered why he wasn’t worried about her at all. He shook his head, trying to clear his thinking, trying not to think about the girl whom he thought he loved, lying behind him in one bloody heap. With a slight frown, he accelerated and sped off into the night, trying to save himself.
As the police cars approached, their headlights shone on the body of a young girl, with her father kneeling by her side, cradling her head in his arms. An officer immediately called for medical help as he pulled along the curb, and jumped out, his arm crooked, his hand carefully on his holstered gun.
“Is that Katie, Mr. Crawford? Is she alive?
The words sounded vacant in the night air, as he flashed his light down upon father and daughter.
She had a gaping bald spot where the patch of hair used to be, and she had abrasions all down her right side. There was a cut above her right eye, possibly from the pressure of the car door.
“We need a blanket, she’s going into shock,” Mr. Crawford said. From somewhere, someone handed him a coat. He looked down at his daughter’s bloody face and swollen eye and held her to him, smoothing back her hair, careful to avoid the raw spot on her head where her hair used to be.
As he cradled her, he noticed the neighbors coming out to help, and soon his wife joined him, kneeling down next to him, whispering softly to her daughter. Katie’s eyelids shivered, as she recognized her mother, and she said softly, “I’m so sorry, Papa.”
As a second set of sirens signaled the approach of the ambulance, her eyes fluttered shut and she fell into oblivion. It would be several days before she would wake up, and begin to be thankful that she was alive.