Thursday, June 21, 2012

Paying What You Owe

Originally posted April 16, 2012
This piece is an excerpt from  Annie's Story . It has been inspired by this Write on Edge prompt:
This week we asked you to write about a time you or one of your main characters had to repay a debt. The debt can be legal, like sending taxes to the government or paying off a credit card, or it can be something promised in a back room deal, sealed by a handshake more binding than a written contract
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Okay, here we go . . .

“Help me.” The words were hushed, broken. The familiar voice flavored with a sobbing gurgle.

“Where are you? Are you hurt?” I cupped my hand around the phone, whispering while looking over my shoulder. As always, Sarah’s timing was abysmal. Officer Pershall had just stepped out of the room. Not feeling that is was necessary to tell me where she was going, she simply requested that I, “Hang tight.” Typical police procedure meant to keep me on edge.

“Don’t say anything.” Sarah begged.

Given the circumstances, I wasn‘t exactly sure what that meant. “You did this?”

“Annie, stop!” The gurgling became more intense. I could imagine her nose inflamed , the way her shoulders moved rhythmically up and down when she would cry hard. “ I just want you to know I am safe.”

The call disconnected. What did I owe her? I was glad Eddie was dead. I was relieved, almost giddy, to finally know that I would be able to sleep without wondering if I would awaken with the pawn shop gun held to my temple or worse, one of Eddie‘s hunting knives held against my throat. This was his favorite weapon of torture. But what did I owe her?

All my life, I have been indebted to someone or something. Poor money management skills as a young adult taught me the perils of being in debt. Losing my car, having wages garnished to pay back outstanding loans were a hassle, but I never expected these things to keep me from being safe, independent. In hindsight, I realized Eddie wasn’t the only one who placed limitations on me.

But financial debt can be repaid. How do you pay back those debts that have no monetary value? A truly personal debt.

I started to rummage through my received calls to see if I could locate the number Sarah had called from. I didn’t expect to find it. Sarah was smart, as smart as someone on the run can be, she would not allow her number to be traced. She also had money. Money buys anonymity.

Instead, I accidentally hit the icon for my picture files. A bright, happy picture of Kate and Eddie slapped me in the face. A recent picture. Maybe three months ago.

The giddiness melted away. What did I owe Kate? My Kate. The teenage girl so distraught by her father’s death that I had to literally rock her to sleep last night.

Personal debt is a hellish, nightmare where nobody comes out the victor. Where did my loyalties lie? Who would I protect when the storm started to rage out of control?

“Annie?” Officer Pershall startled me causing my hand to jerk, the phone splattering to the floor breaking apart, the SIM card, the battery, the case all dislocating from each other. “Did something happen?”

“Everything is fine.” I scooped up the pieces of my phone and shoved them in my bag, pushing the stray hairs off my face, trying to appear calm.

Pershall studied me, then walked around behind her desk. Sitting down, she picked up a black remote. Without words, she pushed a button and the wall mounted television behind me came to life. On the screen, I saw myself. My hand cupping the phone, my lips moving. Replaying my phone call from minutes earlier.

Pershall paused the image. “Let’s talk.”


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