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The Road to Nowhere

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I sat in the cafeteria, frozen at the sight of Kurt* walking toward me.

My friend Neena leaned over and whispered, “I think he’s coming this way!”

My heart pumped faster with each step Kurt took. I was a shy sophomore; Kurt was a hot senior.

“Hey, Christy,” Kurt said in a smooth, silky voice. “Mind if I sit down?”

“Uh . . . n-no,” I stammered as I slid my book bag off the chair beside me.

“So I was thinking that we could go out sometime.”

My mouth went dry.

“Uh . . . yeah, sure,” I nodded, reaching for my bottle of water.

“How’s Friday?” Kurt asked. “I can swing by your house around 7:00.”

I untwisted the cap and took a sip. “Sounds good,” I sputtered as water droplets dribbled down my chin.

“Cool. See ya then.”

Kurt stood up and sauntered across the cafeteria as my friend Jenna raced toward me from the other side of the room.

“Are my eyes messing with me, or did Kurt Staverson just sit down at your table?”

Beaming, I nodded and giggled.

“What did he want?” Jenna shrieked.

“A date,” I replied in a whispered shout.

“Be careful,” Jenna cautioned. “I’ve heard some things about him.”

“Really?” Neena asked, leaning forward in her chair. “What sorts of things?”

“Who cares?” I declared. “He’s gorgeous! And he asked me out!”

“Kurt has a reputation for being a player,” Jenna said.

“Well, people talk. Who knows what’s really true?” I said.

“True. Just promise me you’ll be careful,” Jenna urged.

“I’ll be fine,” I insisted. “I’ll probably just spend the whole night staring at his cute face.”

On Friday, when Kurt helped me into his shiny black sports car, I was floating on air. I wasn’t sure where we were headed, but I was thrilled to be along for the ride. Fifteen minutes later, when Kurt pulled off the road to a deserted spot near a lake, I admired the view of the sparkling water as faint moonbeams danced across the rippling waves.

“I thought we could chill here,” he said, flashing me his crooked smile as he turned off the engine. He came around and opened my car door, took my trembling hand, and pulled me close. For a split second I got a whiff of his cologne—a strong, musky scent. I inhaled and squeezed his calloused hand, which was rough from many hours spent in the weight room. He gave me a thick wool blanket and told me to make myself comfortable down by the lake.

I spread out the blanket and took a seat as he rifled through his trunk. After a few seconds Kurt pulled out two cans of beer.

“Here ya go,” he said, holding one out to me.

I shook my head. “No, thanks,” I replied.

“I have plenty,” he said as he unloaded a cooler. “Go ahead. It’ll help you relax.”

“I’m plenty relaxed,” I insisted. But that was a lie. I was suddenly very tense.

“What’s the big deal?” Kurt rolled his eyes and popped open a can.

He sat down next to me, put his arm around my shoulder, and took a swig.

“You can’t drink,” I protested. “You drove me here.”

“It’s one beer. Loosen up!” Kurt tilted the can up for another gulp.

Soft waves lapped the shoreline like a quiet whisper while frogs croaked and crickets chirped in unison. The night had the potential for perfection. Why did Kurt have to ruin it with alcohol?

Kurt softly ran his hand over my cheek and tucked my loose brown hair behind my ear as he nuzzled closer and kept drinking.

“You’re gorgeous, you know that?” he said in a cool, deep voice.

“Listen, if you’re gonna drink, I’ll call someone to come pick me up,” I said.

“What are you talking about?” Kurt huffed. “We just got here.”

“Don’t you remember last year? Cindy Mendelson wrapped her car around a tree off Riggins Road after a night of drinking.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not Cindy,” Kurt said gruffly. He paused, then softened a bit. “Are you cold? ’Cuz I could warm you up,” he said, nudging closer. He took my face in his hands and pulled me in for a kiss. His hot breath reeked like a brewery.

I flinched and turned my face to the side. “No!” I said, pushing Kurt away.

“Sheesh!” Kurt hissed, hurling his beer can toward a tree. “Bennett told me you were a prude—that you were all ‘churchy’ or whatever. But this is beyond ridiculous!” He stood up and reached into the cooler, then shot me a look of disgust. “What a waste,” he mumbled, shaking his head.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“It means that every girl in school would kill to be here with me,” Kurt said as he plopped down onto the blanket and took another drink. “But you wanna go home ’cuz you’re scared to have fun. You don’t know what you’re missing, sweetheart.”

I stood up and yanked on the blanket Kurt was sitting on, but it didn’t budge.

“Are you crazy?” he asked, clearly agitated.

He stood up as I dug deep into the pocket of my jeans for my cell phone.

“I’m calling my mom.”

Kurt lurched forward and grabbed my arm, squeezing it hard. My phone fell to the ground, but as I leaned down to retrieve it, Kurt tightened his grip and glared into my eyes with a steely anger.

“You do that!” he snarled through gritted teeth. “Call Mommy to rescue you! Or hey—call God! I’m sure He’ll pick you up.”

He chuckled nastily, then pushed me hard. I fell backwards onto a tree stump and some jagged twigs. When I stood up, I could feel warm blood trickling down my back.

My heart pounded like thunder in a fierce storm as I watched Kurt stumble down the hill. I ran toward the street and looked around frantically to get my bearings. The sky was pitch-black. All I could make out was a rusty old street sign. Hopefully it was enough of a landmark for Neena to find me.

I stood in the dark—shivering, scared, and stunned—wondering how I could have found myself in this situation. Jenna had warned me about Kurt, but I had refused to hear it. A handsome face had completely clouded my judgment.
As I waited for Neena, I pressed my forehead against an old oak tree and prayed.

“God, I’m so sorry,” I said as tears trickled down my face. “Tonight things could have gone so badly. Thank You for keeping me safe. You are my strength and my fortress. You are everything to me, but I forgot all of that when I got swept up in this date. I’m sorry for putting my ego above all else. Please forgive me, Lord.”

When Neena arrived in her dilapidated Chevy, I collapsed into her arms.

“I take it Jenna was right about Kurt?” Neena asked.

“Yeah,” I said, wiping away tears. “Kurt is used to getting his way, but that didn’t happen tonight.”

Neena placed her hand over her mouth. “He didn’t . . . Did he . . . ?”

“No,” I said, massaging my arm where Kurt had grabbed me. But my body shuddered at the thought of what might have happened if I had gotten him angry after he had downed a few more beers. How violent and aggressive might he have become?

I opened the door of Neena’s dented, scraped-up Chevy and gingerly leaned my aching back against the torn vinyl passenger’s seat.

“So what exactly did Kurt do?” Neena asked as she turned the key in the ignition of the rusted, busted clunker. It certainly wasn’t the smooth ride of Kurt’s shiny black convertible. But in that moment the sputtering cough of the rickety engine never sounded so inviting.

“I’ll tell you about it on the way home,” I said. “That is, if this hunk of junk ever gets moving.”

“Hey, my car’s more reliable than your date,” Neena said with a smile.

“Seriously, though. Are you sure you’re OK?”

I glanced toward the tranquil lake. The sound of croaking frogs and chirping crickets filled the still night air. Kurt was right about one thing. God did pick me up. Just as He always had. Just as He always would.

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m gonna be fine.”

* All names, other than the author’s, have been changed.

Christy Heitger-Ewing is a writer who lives in Avon, Indiana.

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