The second part of my work in progress. Based off of Little Red Riding Hood.
|We finally made it back to the apartment after hours of shopping. I left the bags of our newfound treasures on the catchall table by the door. Linda made her way into the living area to unwind and catch up on the six o’clock news. I went to the bathroom to freshen up. I was spent from the shopping, the lunch we had in Fisherman’s Wharf, and spending a few hours at the salon getting our hair dyed and nails done. Linda got a few highlights and I got my hair dyed brown at the suggestion of Linda. She said my hair would look nice if I had it a darker shade of brown and then she continued to talk; I could not pay attention to the conversations as my mind would not stop thinking about Sawyer and the possibility of a few hours of freedom tonight.
The music signaling the start of the six o’clock news traveled to the bathroom. I suddenly had a craving for some apple juice. I searched the fridge and was in luck. Half a bottle of apple juice was there. I watched the reporters deliver tonight’s headlines as I pour the juice into a glass. Linda was curled up into a ball at one end of the couch watching the reporters’ lips intensely.
A picture took up the screen and lingered as the female reporter articulates the reason for belonging on TV, capturing my interest. It was a picture of a young woman with long blonde hair streaked with color. She was smiling slightly, as if just for the picture. That picture was soon replaced with another of the woman, with the same forced smile, with what I presumed to be her friends. Then that picture disappeared and the woman’s information took up the screen as the reporter recited it. It read:
Cori Rowan Baine 19 years old Missing since February 25, 2009 5’0” 95 lbs. Hazel Eyes
I was immediately empathetic for the woman’s family. I knew what it felt like to lose someone close to you, even if it was myself. The reporter’s voice made the story behind the pictures all the more somber. “Police believe that she has been kidnapped, but do not yet have any suspects. They found her car, a silver Maxima, on a road in the middle of the redwood forest abandoned. Dogs were used to search for a scent surrounding the area, but no leads were found. However, she has runaway before and police have taken it in to consideration.”
A photomontage of Cori Baine started with baby pictures and changed to show her happy childhood and then her troubled years as a teen. “Cori was adopted as a baby by Maya, then Goldman, and her then-husband, Ethan. After only five years together, Ethan left Maya when she learned she was pregnant with their son, Gabriel. A couple years later, Maya met and eventually married Trinidad’s North Coast Charter School principal, Allen Baine. Distressed from her mother’s divorce and marriage to Allen, Cori became rebellious. She experimented with drugs, drank alcohol, subjected herself to self-mutilation, and attempted suicide on several occasions. She would runaway to try to see her first adoptive father, Ethan, or to find her birth mother. Maya and Allen sent her to a number of camps for troubled teens, but none of them seemed to work until the most recent camp. According to her family, Cori was getting better and therefore would not have willingly disappeared. The Baines held a press conference at their home in Trinidad earlier today, pleading for their daughter to come home…”
A video of the girl’s parents standing together came up. The mother was struggling to hold back tears as she spoke. Her graying light brown hair barely touched her shoulders. She was not tall, but not short. Her eyes were puffy and red as if she had been crying for some time, but had been attempted to be covered up with make up. Her husband was standing solemnly behind her right shoulder. He was taller than his wife, but his eyes were empty. Maybe if they weren’t so sad, they could look like the perfect parents.
“Never has our daughter been away for a month. Whenever she ran away before it was only for a few days, a week at the most. She’s our baby and we miss her terribly. I just want my baby girl back.”
The mother could no longer speak. She stared at the ground. He continued to speak for his wife. His voice was empty and melancholy. “She has been unstable the past couple of years, so she has been living with us. We believe that she is alive and we keep praying that whom ever has done this will see the pain that he or she has caused. We just want to know why somebody would take our daughter. Please help us find Cori. We are willing to pay a large reward, just please give us back our daughter.”
The screen returned to the information of the missing woman and a number appeared. “If you have any information involving Cori Baine, please call the toll-free number on your screen.” The reporter then moved on to a happier story.
“Why would anybody do such a thing? Poor family. They must be miserable,” Linda said quietly. The picture of the woman stayed in my mind. Something about her was familiar.
“Do we know that family? I have a feeling that I know her.”
A flash of panic caught Linda’s face, but then smoothed out into her natural bubbly personality. She pressed mute on the remote so I could hear her. “I don’t think so. Maybe you saw her when you lived in Santa Rosa before…” She didn’t continue, but we both knew what she was going to say: before you moved to San Francisco and lost your memory.
“Why did we move to San Francisco? Why didn’t we stay in Santa Rosa?”
Linda seemed more relaxed answering this question. She said it like an actress delivering well-rehearsed lines. “You lived in San Francisco as a little girl with your mom, but after she left, you and your dad moved to Santa Rosa for a life away from the city and to take care of your grandma. Your dad got a promotion and the two of you had to move back to San Francisco. You were in your senior year of high school. You were taking debate and Latin to prepare yourself to study law once you got to college so you could become a lawyer, just like your dad. He was so proud of you. And then after your…accident, your dad thought it would be a good idea to stay here since you lived here for a while and then you could finish up your credits next year.”
I saw my opportunity to ask her and I took it. “Do you know if I know anybody named Sawyer?” I bit my bottom lip as I waited for her response. My heart was pounding with anticipation.
“Not that I know of. But then again, you could have known him from before…why do you ask?” Her brows pulled together in confusion.
“When I went to the bathroom when I was waiting for you, I ran into him, rather he ran into me. He said I looked familiar and…”
“He invited me to Pier 39. I was wondering if I could…”
Linda cut me off harshly. Her face went rigid. “No. You can’t go. Your dad wouldn’t allow it.”
“But Linda, he might know me and there’s a chance that I know him, I could start to remember things. I wouldn’t be out too long. I just want a night to be normal. Please? It’s my birthday!”
“He could have just been saying those things. How can you trust somebody you’ve just met?”
“I trusted you and my dad when I woke up in the hospital when I had no idea who you were!” I retorted.
“What if he just said that he recognized you so he could get you alone and…hurt you? I won’t allow it, especially when your dad is gone.”
“So you two don’t want me to remember? Is that it? Do you not want my life ever get back to normal?”
“Of course not, Brooke; but it’s too early to go off on your own. That was part of the deal when you left the hospital after a week: you have to take it easy and listen to your dad and me.”
“Can’t you trust me to take care of myself? I’m not a child! I’m nineteen years old! I need to start living my life!” Angry tears started to leak from my eyes. I had begun to yell, but she stayed at a normal volume. How did I get so out of control with this? Her face went emotionless.
“We do trust you. We just don’t trust other people. Your dad has already lost you once; don’t put yourself in a situation that will make him lose you again.” I knew part of what she was saying was true. I didn’t want to hurt my dad again. I decided that I didn’t want to be around Linda the rest of the night.
I tried to make my voice calm, but I was close to falling apart. “I’m going to my room and I’ll come out if I want dinner. Don’t talk to me for the rest of the night.” I turned sharply on my heel and stormed off to my room. I slammed the door behind me and collapsed onto my bed, sobbing with anger and frustration. I was surprised that Linda followed my request and didn’t bother me. Some birthday this was turning out to be.
I angrily took my clothes out of their boxes. I didn’t know what else to do with my time. And it was about time that I got rid of the boxes, tried to make my life seem as normal as possible. The colors of my wardrobe blended together through my angry tears. I stopped because I realized that no matter how hard I tried, nothing would ever be normal again. Not if I got my memory back or started a new life. I was never going to be the Brooke everyone knew.
I took out the scrap of paper with Sawyer’s number on it. I was ready to tear the source of my frustration when I realized that I had just created the perfect situation to sneak out. The window in my room had a fire escape, I could call Sawyer from the phone in my room, and Linda wouldn’t be bothering me any time soon. A smile displayed itself on my face. I could make it back before she knows that I’m gone. I would have to wait here until it was closer to eight so she wouldn’t suspect anything.
He wondered when it all started. When he became part of their life by marrying their mother? Did she see him as someone trying to replace her father, Ethan? Or was it after she found out she was adopted, not related by blood to anyone she had called her family? She didn't start running away until she was fourteen or fifteen; he had forgotten many details in the process of aging. He had loved Cori and Gabe (probably more so than Ethan since he hadn't cared to call or visit in years. He didn’t even try to fight for custody of them) as if they were his own flesh and blood, but he felt more of a connection with Gabe. Perhaps it was because Gabe was only four when he married Maya and he was the only father he remembered. Cori was nine; she knew her father and it wasn't Allen. She had confirmed his insecurities through the years by disrespecting and disobeying him. He had tried to be nice and understanding during the firsts of their new family's relationships, but apparently it had not worked. He loved Maya and treated her and her children well. He had been a better father and husband than Ethan was or ever could have been. He and Maya rarely fought, he had never laid a hand on any of them. All of these thoughts ran through his head as he rested next to Maya. He hadn't been able to sleep, but he didn't let Maya know. He knew she had trouble sleeping at night with all of her tossing and turning, having nightmares about the worst happening to her only daughter. And he knew he could not do anything about it, not until Cori was found alive. As long as she was alive, they could handle all of her damages. They had survived worse from her: her constant sneaking out to drink or do drugs or God knows what with her "friends" all throughout high school, her mood swings, dying her hair all the colors of the rainbow, getting a tattoo at age sixteen, the self-mutilation and suicide attempts since age fifteen, avoiding going to church with the rest of them, the list went on and on.
She was a bright kid, but she threw it all away because of her anger. She could have been at the top of her class, but she was unmotivated, something he never understood. Never in all of his years as an educator had he seen somebody so brilliant; he even considered her borderline genius. She even skipped the second grade and went right into third grade after her second year of formal schooling. She didn’t even try in middle or high school, but she still managed to keep a stable GPA. And he believed that the reason she didn’t get in trouble during school was so that she wouldn’t have to go to the principal’s office, which was his. She didn’t want to see him anymore than she had to.
Maya mumbled something incoherent in her sleep and her brow furrowed in frustration. Another nightmare. Outside their bedroom door, he heard Toby whine. He couldn't take it anymore. He wanted Cori to return home. So did Maya. And Gabe. Even her dog, the one she only knew for less than twenty-four hours, missed her. Gabe. He had not come down for dinner that night. He wondered if he snuck out, a habit he might have picked up from Cori. He didn't check while Maya was awake; he didn't want to cause her any more pain. Thinking about all of this caused him to pray. He had attended mass every Sunday since he could remember, but he never actually prayed. Sure, he had made small requests here and there, but never in his entire life had he prayed this hard, never had he wanted anything so much. He prayed that Cori would come back in one piece, that they would be able to fix her, that Gabe would come back before Maya realized he was gone, that their family could be healed, that they could someday forget this mess. And it was if a weight had been lifted off of him. He felt relieved, better than he had felt since the day Maya told him that Cori didn't make it to her mother's house. He was able to close his heavy lids and clear his mind. "Thank you," he whispered into the dark as he fell into a dreamless sleep. My heart was racing. My plan was already set in motion. I had called the number Sawyer gave me at the hospital and told him that I would definitely be at the carousel. His voice was sweet with excitement. It made all the doubt Linda gave me disappear. How could he want to harm me when he was genuinely looking forward to seeing me? In the past hour, I had inched my window up silently to a point where I could fit through. I didn't want to lift it up so suddenly that it would make a noise and cause a reason for Linda to come in. I glanced at the digital clock by my bed: 7:16 p.m. Forty-four minutes left until Sawyer and his friends would be at the carousel. Should I leave now and get there early and risk Linda finding out that I am gone sooner? Or should I wait a few more minutes and get there later? I was too anxious, so I chose right then. I grabbed my brand new coat to protect myself from San Francisco's chilly winter night. I would be back soon, no reason to panic, I kept telling myself. At last minute, I remembered that I should take a cab, so I went to my stash of money hidden under my clock. I made sure that I would have enough left over after two rides. I didn't have a cell phone so I dialed information and asked for a taxi service on the phone in my room. The phone rang briefly and then a man with a husky voice and thick accent I couldn't place answered, "Thank you for calling San Francisco Yellow Cab, the Bay Area's best and safest transportation. Where are you located?" I gave him my address and he reassured me that a taxi would be there within the next five minutes. We exchanged farewells and hung up. I walked over to the open window and swung my legs out first. I extended my body and bent backwards until my feet reached the platform of the fire escape. I tucked my chin in so it touched my chest and spun my body so I could stand up. I stood and looked at the bright lights of the stores on the corners and the taillights of the cars passing by. A slight breeze caused my hair to dance around my face. The air smelled of moisture, a promise of rain. I was happy again. Rain brought change and it cleansed the earth. Tonight, it would cleanse me, too. Despite the temperature, I decided to leave my window open just in case Linda didn't find out I was gone and I needed a secret way back in. I highly doubted that this would happen, but I was being optimistic tonight. Nothing bad was going to happen. I was going to have a good time with Sawyer and his friends; forget about my present situation: that I was being treated like a child and couldn't remember a thing. I climbed down the fire escape, the metal freezing my hands instantly. The wind died down once I reached street level. I kept my eyes peeled for the taxi I sent for. A bright yellow car claiming to be a taxi by the words on the doors halted at the curbside where I stood. A man with a thick accent called across the passenger's seat, trying to be heard over the passing pedestrians and vehicles. "You called for taxi? Where you need to go?" Winter's early darkness caused difficulty for me to see my driver. I climbed into the back seat and buckled up. I was paranoid about buckling my seat belt every time I entered a box with wheels. "Yes. I need to go to Pier 39." I didn't know if he understood me. In the light of the passing car's headlights, I saw his face and garb as he casually chatted and threw his head back every now and again. He was foreign, but I knew that from his accent. His large nose curved gracefully and suited his face, although it would have looked ghastly on anybody else. His dark, bushy eyebrows that almost touched balanced it. He had big, beautiful, brown eyes, the kind I had only seen on the TV shows Linda watched. His skin was tan, but naturally, unlike the fake tans of the girls flaunting their fake hair and fake bodies. He wore a cap on top of his head with his short, dark, curly hair spilling out and a light, loose-fitting shirt. He had a neatly trimmed, but long and curly beard. His taxi felt homey, more so than my own room. Everything about him was foreign to me, but I felt comfortable and safe. "Hello, my friend. My name Gabir. Are you visiting or you live here all the time?" "My name is Brooke. I live here with my dad." I smiled to be polite. He was letting me into his home. I knew he had a real home that was on solid ground, but he had customized every square inch of his taxi because he spent day after day in it, driving lost tourists and making locals happy with his blithe attitude towards life. "Have you see tonight news? I watch during dinner at my friend's store. Poor missing girl. Your face has cuts. What happen, if I not being rude." "I saw it briefly on the news. I can't say that I know her. I was in a car accident last month when I was driving back here." "I sorry to hear. Taking taxi is better, safer. We almost to Fisherman's Wharf. I give you discount for surviving accident." "Oh, you don't have to do that. I would be happy to pay full price." I glanced at the meter. In glowing red numbers, it read: $15.07 "No, no. I insist. You only pay eleven dollars." He smiled a genuine smile. He pulled over to a curb and waited for his money. "How about I pay you eleven dollars for the ride and give you a tip of four dollars and seven cents." "You very clever, Brooke. I take your deal. Any time you need ride, call and ask for me, Gabir. I will be happy to drive you any where, my friend." I paid him the amount on the meter and stepped out into the Pier's strong smelling docks. I turned around and thanked Gabir. He drove off in search of a new customer, a new friend to make and welcome into his home. In his home, I didn't realize that it had begun to sprinkle. I hurried in search for Sawyer or the carousel, making my way around the late-night city prowlers. Somewhere in the distance I heard youthful music playing, not doubt that it was the carousel. I wandered toward the music when I heard my name being called somewhere in the crowd. "Brooke, Brooke! Over here!" I didn't recognize the voice and wondered in amazement at how someone could have spotted me among these tall strangers. Then again, it must have been my height that made me recognizable. I looked to my left and saw Sawyer waving and smiling in my direction. He was wearing a dark blue sweater over the t-shirt I saw him wearing earlier. Next to him stood a guy and a girl with straight dark brown hair wearing almost all black clothing. A small smile painted bright red sat on her face. Her brown eyes were covered by dark red eye shadow, heavy eyeliner, and mascara. She was just a few inches taller than me. This must be his girlfriend, I thought to myself. My heart sank, but I knew it had no reason to. I came here in hopes of leading a normal life for a couple of hours. I ignored my heart and forced a smile, but it turned into a real one. "You made it! I want you to meet my sister, Rebecca. She's studying to become a nurse at UCSF." My heart skipped a beat. This beautiful stranger was not Sawyer's girlfriend, but his sister. I told my heart to calm down as I shook hands with her. "And do you go to UCSF as well?" I asked him. I wanted to know all that I possibly could about him so that maybe I could learn about myself. "No, I'm studying architecture at Berkley. We share an apartment here in the city though. Oh, and this is my best friend, Sam. He's studying architecture at Berkley with me. And I see that Rebecca's boyfriend, Tyler, is joining us now. He's in the process of becoming a teacher. And it looks like he brought along my brother’s friend, Gabe. He's a junior in high school visiting for the week. Everyone, this is Brooke." I shook hands with all of these strangers, trying to put the names with the faces. Sam wasn't as tall as Sawyer, but he was lean and had short, spiky black hair and warm, brown eyes, most likely a soccer player. I could tell from all of the soccer movies I watched with Linda my first few days at the apartment. Tyler was almost as tall as Sawyer, taller than Rebecca. He wrapped his arm lovingly around Rebecca's waist. She leaned in closer to him, comfortable standing in the cold, misting night. He had shaggy light brown hair and matching light brown eyes. Gabe was shorter than Sawyer and Sam, but taller than Rebecca. He had brown hair and hazel eyes. All, save myself, were un-phased by the clouds depositing water on our bodies. "Gabe, where's Jordan?" Sawyer asked. "He's back at the apartment. He's not feeling well, I think from the ride down here. Remind me to never go on a road trip with him again." "Who's Jordan?" I asked. "Our brother and Gabe's friend. They're looking at colleges in the Bay Area this week. Jordan gets carsick very easily, so I guess it makes sense that he's at the apartment now. What time did you guys get here?" "Half hour, forty-five minutes ago. Are we going to grab some food? I'm starving." "How about the new Thai-seafood place? I've been dying to go there." Rebecca had spoken for the first time. Her voice was as beautiful as she was, but it had a hint of melancholy. I suppose it was all apart of her façade of mourning: the black clothes, the lack of passion she had with Tyler, the choice of profession of nursing. She really did care about people, but she liked to pretend that she was sad for the world.
"Sounds great, Goth." Tyler kissed Rebecca on the forehead as her small smile grew the tiniest of a fraction. The rest of the group smiles at some inside joke that I missed. I smiled to fit in with them. "Where is it? It better be somewhere close because if it's expensive, I don't want to waste money on a cab. And I don't want to walk far." Sam said, comfortable with complaining to Rebecca. "What are you talking about, Sam? Don't you make more than all of us at that school you do part-time at? And don't you run miles and miles everyday at soccer practice?" Rebecca was just as comfortable chastising Sam. "The rain is starting to pick up. And I didn't go to practice today and I'm probably not going to tomorrow. Sawyer and I have a huge project due at the end of the week. Besides, Goth, you know I'm the laziest person you know. You tell me every day." "Whatever." Rebecca rolled her eyes and continued talking to the remainder of the group. "It's not far from here. I don't want to get too wet, either, so let's go." Rebecca started to lead Tyler by the hand and the rest of us decided to follow the lovers. I was behind Sam and Gabe. They were talking about schools and academics. Sawyer walked beside me and started to make small talk. "Do you like seafood? I guess I should have asked that before I invited you to Fisherman's Wharf. Anyway, have you ever had Thai?" "No. It's usually been my dad or Linda's cooking or takeout. Can I ask you something?" "Sure. Anything." "What do they know about me?" "I didn't tell them about your accident, if that's what you mean. I figured that if you wanted people to know, you could tell them yourself." “Thanks. Why does Sam and Tyler call Rebecca Goth?” “In high school she attempted to be gothic, but failed, miserably. You should have seen it. She's not so gothic now, but she likes the style. The nickname stuck though." "So how is Thai food?" "It expensive most of the time, spicy, and delicious. The one that we are going to just has seafood, no other kinds of meat, so it's easier for Rebecca and I to eat something that's kosher.” "Wait, why do you have to have your food kosher?" "My family is very Jewish. We never want to break the rules. We've never had non-kosher food, so why start now, you know? In fact, Rebecca is a vegetarian." "Oh. Have you ever been to this place? And I must sound really dumb asking this question, but what is a vegetarian?" "Don’t worry about it. It means that she doesn't eat meat. And Rebecca probably already checked it out to make sure that this place was kosher. I'm sure it will be good. Do you like spicy food?"
"I don't know. I haven't had it before." His smile was bathed in the neon lights of the restaurant. The others went in ahead of us. We stood under the awning as he gently brushed the droplets off of my hair and coat. "Tonight will be a night of firsts, then."