The Monster

My alarm is going off. That means its 6:30 and, once again, I’ve gotten no sleep. I can hear it but I don’t want to get up; not today. I’m just going to lie here a little longer and pretend that I’m a normal 17 year old girl again, except, I know I’m not. I look at the alarm clock and see that it’s May 17, 1991. This is the day I’ve been dreading all week. This is the day I must, once again, face the monster. The monster I’ve had nightmares of every night for the last two weeks. The monster I didn’t know could exist except in movies and big cities. This is the day I had to go to the city court house and identify my kidnapper out of a police lineup.
I reluctantly get out of bed and go about my normal morning routine of getting ready for school. I like normal. I just wish my mind was thinking about cheerleading and prom, instead of monsters and court houses. The police told me they would send an officer to school to pick me up at 10am and they said I could bring a few friends with me if I wanted to. That sounded comforting, but I wasn’t sure if I would. Lately, my friends have been different, distant, and quiet. I knew why and I didn’t blame them. It was because I scared them. Not me exactly, but my reactions to them. I wasn’t the same girl I was two weeks ago, and I don’t think I ever will be.
When I get to school, I walk absent-mindedly toward my locker where I see my boyfriend, Mark, my best friend, Danyelle, and another friend named Sarah, waiting for me. Tears fill my eyes for a few brief seconds and I realize I do want them with me today. Even if we don’t speak to each other, their presence warms me and makes me feel loved. It makes me feel normal. Sarah and I aren’t close friends so I ask Mark and Danyelle if they want to come with me today. I don’t have to tell them where. They already know. I bet everyone knows. I’m breaking news in this small town in rural upstate NY. Sarah surprises me when she asks if she can come too. At first, I think she just wants an excuse to skip class but when our eyes lock I know that’s not it. I finally see Sarah more clearly than I ever have before and I can see that she knows how I feel. I can see her pain and it looks like mine. I quickly look away to stop the tears I feel coming on again and I tell them to meet me in the office at 10am.
Class is a waste of time for me. I’m not paying attention to my teachers and I know from the way I’ve been treated the last 2 weeks that I don’t need to. They’re not going to call on me. They feel sorry for me. I see the way they look at me. It’s the same way everyone in this town’s been looking at me.  Their faces are always kind but I can see the pity in their eyes and I hate it. I stare out the window at the dreary, sunless day, and think about today’s events and wonder how I’m going to keep it together. It’s 9:55am. The teacher is still lecturing as I wordlessly stand up and leave the room. Nobody stops me. They all know. “Freak!” No one actually says that, but that’s what I hear over and over in my head. It’s a constant mantra, as of late.
As I round the corner, I see Mark, Danyelle, and Sarah already in the office. They’re standing with a uniformed police officer who introduces himself as Detective Harris. Everyone shakes hands and introduces themselves. Then we all climb into a marked police cruiser and attempt to act like this is completely normal. It would take 20 minutes to get to the court house. That’s a long time to pretend I was the old Diana again so I choose to stare out the window and not talk to anyone. They were talking to each other but I wasn’t paying attention. Their conversations sounded muffled, and it reminded me of those old Charlie Brown cartoons whenever an adult was speaking. This made me smile and make a small sound and I instantly heard the voices stop. “Freak!”
When we got to the court house, Detective Harris walked us into a small office that had a dark, oval desk in it with 8 chairs. He asked us to take a seat and then explained what was about to happen. “In a few minutes, I’m going to walk you down the hallway to a small room with a large window. The window looks into another small room where there will be 5 suspects. Don’t worry. It’s a two-way mirror. You can see them but they can’t see you. I know this will be hard, but I need you to look at each suspect carefully. It’s important we get this bastard.” His use of profanity made me feel like maybe he hated this guy as much as I did, and I liked that.
“Do you have any questions?” he asked. I feebly shook my head. My throat felt like it was on fire. I felt a familiar tightness there and I knew if I opened my mouth to speak I would start crying.
 “Are you ready?” he asked. I nod my head to indicate yes and we leave the room.
The short walk down the hall felt like an eternity. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty. How was I going to react when I saw him? Will I be able to keep it together? I’m ushered through a door where I’m staring through a window into an empty room that has the numbers 1-5 written on the floor. I hear a buzz, a door opens and 5 men walk into the empty room, each one stops on top of a different number.  The suspects are barely in place before I point to the monster and say, “That’s him.”
“Are you sure?” Detective Harris asks.
“Yes! I’m positive,” and for a brief moment the monster looks my way before he’s led out of the room and back to his cell. A sense of relief fills me. I know I just positively identified my kidnapper. I know he is now being held against his will and this comforts me. Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight.

*This was written for a collection of short stories I am working on and a few details have been changed to either hide identities or add emotional depth.

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