Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

Everything Has Beauty

mgm-pedro-pinto-2be77b7e-689e-4bb4-8cb1-84bca2c66dcb “What do you see in her, man?” Brad asked his friend, Sebastian “Granted, she had a great body but her face…

Sebastian glanced at him.  “What’s wrong with her face?”

Brad stared at him.  “Are you kidding me?  I’m sorry, man, but she’s ugly.”

Color suffused Sebastian’s cheeks and his eyes darkened in anger.  “That’s a terrible thing to say, Brad,” he retorted.

“Well, it’s the truth.  And I’m not the only one who thinks you’ve lost your mind.  There are so many hot girls on campus you could go out with and you settle for an unattractive one.”

“It’s obvious that your idea of beauty is different from mine.”

Beauty?  You would use the word beauty to describe her?  Seriously, you need your eyes checked.”

“She has a name and yes, I think she’s beautiful. Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

“Well, you’re the only one who can see hers.”

“She has lovely dark smooth and flawless skin.  Her eyes are an unusual shade of brown and they sparkle when she talks about the things she likes.  She’s smart, thoughtful and unpretentious.  You’re right, everywhere I turn, I see the faces of beautiful girls but hers is the one I look for.”

Brad studied him.  “You’re really hung up on her, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, why don’t you ask her out then?”

“I plan to.”

“Well, here’s your chance,” he said as he looked past his shoulder.

Sebastian turned and his heart skipped a beat when he saw her.

Brad smiled and patted him on the shoulder.  “Good luck, Man.  I mean that.”

Sebastian nodded.  “Thanks.”

Brad walked away.

Sebastian leaned against the wall and watched nervously as Dominique approached him.  She looked great in the red top and the denim skirt which reached just above her knees.  His eyes lingered on her bare calves before returning to her face.  He didn’t care what anyone said, to him, she was stunning and she had the most incredible smile.

“Hi,” she said when she reached him.  She stood looking up at him, her head cocked to one side.  “You look very nice.”

He blushed.  “Thank you.  So do you.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.  So, how have you been?”

“Busy helping my sister to move.  She moved out of our parents’ house last week Wednesday.”

“It must be nice having your own place.  After I graduate this year and get a job, I’m moving out.”

“Don’t you like living with your parents?”  20190410_093020838_m

“They’re great but I like the idea of being on my own.  You live on your own, don’t you?”

“Yes, but I have financial assistance from my employer as well as a family allowance which helps with my expenses and tuition.”

“Is it hard working and attending university at the same time?”

“It is but I manage.”

“Do you have time to socialize?”

“Yes.”

“What about a girlfriend?”

“I don’t have one,” he replied quietly, his expression guarded as he met her steady gaze.  His heart was pounding.  “What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?” He held his breath as he waited for her to answer.

She shook her head.  “No.

He exhaled in relief.  “Dominique, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

“Yes?”

“Will you go out with me?”

For a moment she didn’t answer.  It was as if she was trying to make sense of what just transpired.  Finally, she said, “I never thought you would ask me out.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, I’m not like the other girls on campus whom I’ve seen you and your friends hanging out with.  They’re pretty and popular.”

“I’m not interested in any of them, Dominique but I’m interested in you.  I’ve wanted to ask you out for a long time but today I finally had the courage to do so.  You haven’t told me if you will go out with me.”

“Yes,” she replied, smiling.  “I will go out with you.  I can’t imagine what the other girls or your friends will say.”

“It doesn’t matter what they think.  All that matters is how you and I feel about each other.  I like you, Dominique.”

“And I like you, Sebastian.”

He reached for her hand.  It felt soft and small in his.  And he felt the heat flow through his body and settle in the pit of his stomach.  His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  He wanted to kiss her but decided that it would be nicer to have their first kiss in a more romantic setting.  “Come,” he murmured.  “I’ll walk you to class.”

She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful – F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wisdom Quotes

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Flow.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Source:  Wisdom Quotes

 

The Unknown God

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Photo:  Joe Walsh Tours

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;  for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD…” – Acts 17:22, 23

One of my favorite sermons of the apostle Paul’s was the one he made at the Areopagus.  When he was in Athens and he saw the idols, he was provoked.  He wasted no time talking to the people, both Jews and Gentiles about Jesus and His resurrection.  That got the attention of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and they were curious about what he was talking about.  Some called him a “babbler” while others perceived that he was preaching about foreign gods.  So, they took him to the Areopagus and asked him, “what this new doctrine is of which you speak?  For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”  That’s how they spent their time–standing around and telling about or listening to new things.

This was a perfect opportunity for Paul to talk to them about the true God whom they called, “the unknown God”.  So, he stood in their midst and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would “teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).  Paul starts out by acknowledging that the people were very religious and that he was considering the objects of their worship.  He mentioned the altar with the inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  He then proceeded to tell them about the God whom they were worshipping in ignorance.

God who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he ministered to by human hands, as though he had need of anything—seeing that he is the one who gives to all men life and breath and everything else.” 

Unlike the other gods, we shouldn’t imagine God as being like gold, silver, or stone, or is an image carved by humans using their own imagination and skill. Idols cannot see, hear, talk or move.  They have to be taken up and carried around.  Why would anyone worship gods made by people when they could worship the true, living God? 

Paul informed his audience that “God tolerated man’s past ignorance about these things, but now he commands everyone to put away idols and worship only him.  For he has set a day for justly judging the world by the man he has appointed, and has pointed him out by bringing him back to life again” (Acts 17:22:31). 

When he mentioned the resurrection, some of the people laughed but others wanted to hear more.  A few, however, joined him and became believers, among them was Dionysius, a member of the court of Areopagus and a woman named Damaris

When it comes to sharing our faith with others, we will encounter the skeptics and opposition but we will also find those who will believe and accept the message.  What Paul did that day was worth the ones who wanted to hear more and the few who believed.  God will present us with opportunities to tell others about Him.  We just have to be open and willing like Paul.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

Twenty-Five Years

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It’s our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  We decided would celebrate it in the comfort of our home.  So, after eating Thai food delivered at our door we drank champagne.  A single red rose lay between us on the bed.

“Happy anniversary,” Martin says as he holds my hand.  “Thank you for the best twenty- five years of my life.”

I smile as I raise my glass.  “Here’s to another twenty-five years.”

We toast.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  God has blessed me with a wonderful man.  We don’t have any kids but we have each other.  He’s my world and I am his.  Together, we have chartered calm and rough waters but through it all, our love, marriage and faith have grown stronger.   Tonight, we are celebrating twenty-five years of wedded bliss.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Farm.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

The Next Level

awake-at-night2He sat in the dark living-room, watching as the rain fell, droplet by droplet down the windowpane.  He couldn’t sleep.  All he could think about was her.  She was out there somewhere with another man.  Was she having a good time?  Did she have any idea of how much this was hurting him?

It was after mid-night.  He should hit the sack but he couldn’t sleep.  He dragged his fingers through his hair, his expression drawn.  Why did he have to go and fall in love with her?  Life was less complicated when they were just friends.  Then, one night, they were goofing around and the next thing he knew they were kissing wildly.  They ended up in bed.  Immediately after, she got dressed and got out of there fast.

For several weeks she avoided him.  She didn’t return his calls or answer his texts and emails.  And when he finally got through to her, she informed him that she was going on a date with some guy a co-worker set her up with.  When he asked her about what happened between them, she said that it was a mistake and that they should cool things off for a while.  That hurt like hell.  After she hung up, he went to a bar and got plastered.Black woman in the rain

The next morning, he woke up with a terrible hangover.  How he managed to get through the day, he had no idea.  As soon as five o’ clock rolled around, he walked out of the office.  He was tempted to go to a bar but headed straight home.  When he got in, he fixed himself something to eat but had to force himself to eat it.  After he cleaned up, he took a long, hot shower.

He tried to read but couldn’t concentrate.  He went on his laptop for a while but ended up going on his Facebook page to look at pictures of them together.  They looked so happy.  Agitated, he logged off and got up from the desk.  He went back into the living-room, turned on the television but he was distracted.  He turned it off and switched off the lights.  It was ten-thirty when he climbed into bed.  He lay on his back.  Outside the rain was falling.  He could hear it hitting against the window.  He closed his eyes but sleep evaded him.  He glanced at the clock.  It was eleven-fifteen.

Throwing off the covers, he climbed out of the bed and left the room.  He went into the drawing-room and sat down on the sofa.   He watched the rain droplets running down the windowpane.   At first, he thought he had imagined it.  Then, he heard it again–faint.  Someone was ringing the doorbell.  He got up and went to see who it was.  His eyes widened and his heart skipped a beat when he saw who it was.  He opened the door.  His eyes ran over her.  She was drenched.

“You’re soaking wet,” he exclaimed as he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her inside.  After he closed the door, he took her into the bedroom.  He turned on the light.  “You need to get out of that wet dress.  While you do that I’ll get you a towel to dry your head.”

He went and got a towel and took it back to the room.  He handed it to her.  She took it.  “Haydn, I’m sorry…”

“For what?” he asked, his expression tense as his eyes met hers.

“For the way I’ve been treating you.”

“When I wanted us to take our relationship to the next level, you made it painfully clear that you didn’t.”

She dropped the towel on the bed.  “I haven’t been honest with you.  After what happened between us that night, I panicked.  I didn’t know how to handle it so I needed a break.”

“I could understand you needing a break but why did you have to go on a blind date?  Do you have any idea how much that hurt me?”

“I’m sorry, Haydn.”  She moved towards him.

“Is that why you came?  To apologize?”

“Yes and to tell you that I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level if you still want to.”  She was standing very close to him now, looking up at him.

His eyes darkened on her upturned face and reaching for her, he moaned thickly, “Of course, I still want to.  Oh, Malika…”  He held her tightly against him as he kissed her passionately.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

As they exchanged kisses, he backed her over to the bed.  Then, he broke off he kiss long enough to strip and undress her before they were under the sheets making love love.  Outside the rain continued to fall.

He later found out that Malika had changed her mind and didn’t go on the blind date.  The two friends became lovers and the following year, they got married.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Droplet.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Berta’s Lot

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Berta sat down, dog tired.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  She brushed them away.

What had she done to be saddled with a life of hardship and misery and an ungrateful child?  Hurt and anger welled up inside her as she thought about her only daughter, Clarissa.  She, Berta had worked so hard to make sure that Clarissa went to a good Negro school where she’d meet a fine Negro man and what does she do?  She runs off with an Injun.  All that money wasted and all that hard work for nothing.

Slowly, she rose to finish the ironing.

100 Words

This was inspired by the movie, Unbowed.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Artist

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He’s a brilliant man and artist whose mercurial temperament has left him with very few friends.  I’m the only one who puts up with his moods.  Call it love or call it madness.  I can’t tell the difference.

38 Words

This is for the Weekend Writing Prompt by Sammi Cox. For instructions, click Here.