Find out how Ali ended up here. Written for the Short Shots WDC contest. Word Count: 1450
|As Ali stood there staring at the map, not knowing where to go next, she found herself smiling as she slipped into an unexpected flashback to the simpler times. Back then, she was Maria Alexandra from Happy Drive in small town America. This time last year, she was at the mall with her friend doing holiday shopping. She could still smell the fresh made waffle cones in the food court. The festive holiday lights throughout the interior of the mall made it feel warm and cozy though the first blizzard of the year was just beginning outside. On this particular day, Ali and her best friend Suzanna ran to the mall to finish their holiday shopping as soon as they saw the first snowflakes beginning to fall outside the window of the small one-bedroom apartment that they shared. They had been living together since they both left home for college but they had been best friends as long as either of them could remember.
After that exciting day of holiday shopping, they went home and drank coffee and hot cocoa while they wrapped the gifts they’d bought for their families and friends and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” before falling asleep in front of the slowly dying embers of their fireplace.
The sudden blast of a car snapped Ali back into reality. She was no longer in her winter wonderland with her best friend. She was standing alone on a busy street in the middle of a city in some country south of the boarder trying to find the next cheap motel she could stay for a night or two.
Cheap motels, odd jobs here and there and constantly looking over her shoulder have been the norm for Ali since that fateful day last year. The day that Suzanna died and Ali’s life changed forever.
It was Christmas Eve and the airports were closed due to the holiday blizzard so Suzanna and Ali didn’t get to go home to their families for Christmas. Instead they decided to go get takeout at the only restaurant open on Christmas Eve during a blizzard, a 24-hour diner just down the street from their apartment.
After trudging through the unplowed snowy streets for what seemed like an eternity, they flung open the door of the diner to be greeted by the thick greasy air inside. There was only one other customer in the diner when they arrived, a large man sitting in the corner hunched over a half-eaten cheeseburger and an extra-large basket of fries.
Suzanna was tired from the long walk through the thick snow so they decided to just stay at the diner and eat their dinner. They went and sat down in the booth in the far corner of the diner near the kitchen, away from the door because they didn’t want to feel the cold gusts of wind every time the diner door opened.
A thin middle aged waitress walked over to the girls, greeted them with a tired smile and a “Merry Christmas.” After taking the girls’ order she returned to the kitchen, leaving the girls in the diner alone with the large man.
As Ali and Suzanna chatted away in their booth, they didn’t notice the two larger men walk in and go sit down across the table from the other customer. After some time, the waitress brought out the girls’ food and went over to see what the two men wanted to order. Then she suddenly sprinted into the kitchen, glancing over her shoulder, catching Ali’s eye in the process. Ali could see the terror in her eyes from across the room but it wasn’t until it was too late that she realized why.
By the time Ali had looked over at the three men, they were on their way to the girls’ table and they were coming fast. The older of the two men pulled a black shiny object from his pocket that instantly registered as a gun in Ali’s mind. As she was diving out of the booth, she yelled to Suzanna to get out of here. But it was too late. With the loud bang of the gun, Ali hit the ground hard. As she rolled across the diner floor, she saw her best friend since birth hunched over in the booth, limp and lifeless. Ali dodged into the kitchen and out the back door without hesitating to look over her shoulder. While Ali managed to escape that dreadful scene she was extremely shaken but unharmed. She had no idea what had just happened but she knew she couldn’t stay there.
She ran as quickly as she could through the ever deepening snow back to the apartment, packed a bag, grabbed her passport and left for fear of the men following her home or knowing where she lived.
After a few hours of wandering through the blizzard, she came across the third cash only motel from her apartment and decided it was safe to stop here and rest. Ali got a room, took a hot shower and collapsed on the bed with her laptop and began searching the web for any news of what had happened at the diner.
She couldn’t find anything, she feared for her life and she was completely exhausted. As she laid there on the hotel bed she drilled holes in the door with her eyes. She was expecting it to burst open any minute and her life would end as quickly as Suzanna’s. For the first time, she was able to clearly see the last image from the diner of her best friend, dead. That image was there, frozen in her mind's eye, never to fade away.
At that moment, the tears began to flow and they seemed to continue forever. She realized that though she was still breathing, her life was over. Throughout the night, Ali went between the stages of exhausted sleep and bouts of crying but she stayed there, on the bed, unmoving in the fetal position for what felt like an eternity.
When morning finally arrived, it was Christmas day, the blizzard had passed but the fear and pain caused by the previous night’s event was still there and as strong as ever. Ali knew she couldn’t stay here; she had to run but where would she go and what was she even running from?
After another hot shower to soothe the pain of her aching head, Ali opened her computer again and went to the local news site. Sure enough, the only headline on the homepage read “Woman Killed on Christmas, Mob Involved.” As panic overwhelmed Ali she to scan through the article. Suzanna wasn’t identified in the article but it said that the victim was directly targeted for her links to the local Mob.
Christmas Day, Ali made a choice. Though her options were few, she did have options. She could go to the police and hope that they could protect her but she knew this wasn’t safe because she had read about the local mob and how they controlled every part of the local government. Since she could identify the murders, she would never be safe here. She wasn’t sure she would ever be safe anywhere.
She could go back home, her family lives on the other side of the country, after all but, she feared that her situation would put her family in danger.
After frantically pacing around the hotel room for a few hours and doing research on the local mob, she decided that her only option was to run, to leave the country and never look back. Her research had revealed that the mob had international ties in various countries throughout Europe and North America.
As soon as the decision was made, she trekked her way to the bus station and hopped on the first bus heading south of the boarder. That was a year ago to date. Since then, she hasn’t stopped moving. She never stays in the same motel for more than a week and never in the same city for more than a month. Moving around makes it difficult to make friends but after what happened to Suzanna, Ali decided that she never wanted to make friends again. Making friends didn't seem so important anyways when your only goal in life is to survive. Plus, if it weren’t for Suzanna, she would be home with her family opening Christmas gifts right now and watching it snow.
Instead, she is in this godforsaken country, staring at this Spanish map that she can barely read, trying to figure out where this unwanted adventure is going to take her next.
Word Count: 1450