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Unsuitable
Author: Samantha Towle

Seven Years Ago


Where am I?

What’s happening?

Pain everywhere…

Then, I remember.

No.

I force my eyes open.

I can’t see. It’s dark. My sight is blurred. Blood. I can feel it running down into my eye.

I can’t see anything.

I can’t see her.

Holding my breath, I listen…waiting for a sound to tell me where she is.

Nothing.

I try to say her name, but it hurts.

It hurts so much.

My lungs are burning…my stomach is on fire…I’m bleeding…

I have to move. Get help.

I reach my hand out, but all I feel is the damp earth I’m lying on.

I inch my fingers around, trying to find something to hold on to, to help me up, but there’s nothing.

Forcing my eyes open, I blink rapidly, trying to clear my vision, but it doesn’t work.

I rub the back of my hand over my eyes, clearing them of the blood and tears, and finally, I can see.

I turn my head to the side.

She’s there.

And she’s not moving. Her once-pretty pink dress is now covered in blood and dirt, and it’s pushed up, exposing her.

No.

I grit my teeth hard, rage tearing through me.

I drag myself over to her. Pain screams in my body. I press a weak hand to my stomach.

My hand is slick against my shirt.

Wet. So wet. And cold.

I’m bleeding badly. But that doesn’t matter. I just have to get to her. I have to know she’s okay.

She has to be okay.

I’m coming, baby. Just hold on.

I reach her.

Her eyes are open. And blank.

“No…baby…no.” Pure anger tears through me, and I cry out a primal sound.

I collapse beside her. “I’m…s-sorry.” I pull her dress down, covering her up.

My vision blurs again.

My heart is slowing down.

It hurts to breathe, and when I do, it’s like I’m taking in water.

I’m dying.

I close my eyes and reach out for her hand. Taking hold, I curl my fingers around hers.

Footsteps. Heavy footsteps are treading through the undergrowth.

Then, I hear a snuffle.

An animal. A dog maybe?

“Help…” I croak, trying to expel my voice as loud as I can. But, even to my own ears, it’s not enough.

There’s no response.

Using all the strength I have left, I force my voice out. “Help!”

The footsteps stop.

“Is someone there?” a male voice says.

Yes. “Help…please…”

The footsteps start up again, moving quicker, coming closer.

I hear the rustling of leaves from the bushes surrounding us and then, “Jesus Christ!”

Thank God.

The man lands on his knees next to me. A dog licks my face.

“Hank, stop it. I just gotta tie my dog up. I’ll be right back.”

“No! Don’t…go. Help…her…please,” I gargle, blood flooding my throat, as I panic.

He moves away, but he returns a second later. “I’m back. Try not to speak.”

Ignoring him, I say, “Help…her.”

Maybe she’s not really gone.

He can try to revive her…do CPR…

I feel him move over me to get to her. “Honey…can you hear me?”

I force my eyes open, turning my head.

He’s checking her neck for a pulse.

Why didn’t I do that?

Those seconds watching him, waiting…feel like hours.

His expression drops, his eyes closing, with a sad-sounding breath.

And it confirms what I knew was already true.

She’s gone.

My heart rips open and bleeds out with the rest of me.

“Is she…”

“Try not to talk. Just hold on for me, yeah? Can you do that? I’m calling an ambulance right now.” He’s on his phone. “Yes, it’s an emergency. Be quick, please. Two kids…one, she’s not moving. I don’t think…there’s no pulse. The other one, he’s alive…talking, but there’s blood everywhere…so much blood…”

 

 

Prologue

Daisy

Eighteen Months Ago


“Tell me again, where were you last night?”

I look at the detective sitting across the table from me. My palms are clammy. I knot my fingers together in my lap.

Why do I have to tell him again? Did he not believe me the first time I told him?

“After I left work, I went straight home, and my boyfriend, Jason, came over. He was with me all night. Ask him; he’ll tell you.”

“My colleague spoke with Jason a few minutes ago.” The detective leans forward. Placing his forearms on the table, he links his hands together. “He told us that he wasn’t with you last night.”

“What?” The word leaves my mouth in a breathless rush.

“Jason told my colleague that he was with his brother and friends, playing cards, at his house all evening and that he didn’t see you at all last night.”

“I-I…what? I don’t understand…” My eyes are frantically searching the room. Confusion and panic are racing through my mind and body. “I don’t understand. Why would Jason say that?”

The detective gives me a steady look, saying nothing.

I lick my lips. My mouth is dry as I try to speak, “Jason is lying. I was with him at my place all night.”

“Can anyone corroborate that?” the detective asks.

Jesse.

No…he stayed out last night at his friend Justin’s house. It was just Jason and me in the house.

Oh God.

“No.” I moisten my lips again. “But I’m telling you the truth, I swear.” I stare steadily into the eyes of the detective, trying to convey that my words are the truth.

But I know it’s fruitless. He thinks I did it.

I swallow hard, fighting to hold in my rising panic. “You think it was me. You think I stole the jewelry. But you’re wrong. It wasn’t me,” I state emphatically.

The detective leans back in his seat. “What am I supposed to think, Daisy? It was your key card that was used to gain access to the store after it was closed, the same card that was still in your possession when we picked you up. You know that cancels out the alarm trigger. You know how to turn the camera equipment off. You know exactly where the high-end pieces of jewelry are—”

“But I didn’t take them! Why would I?”

“You’ve been raising your brother alone, you’re behind on your rent, and you have bills to pay and outstanding credit cards. People have stolen for less.”

“But I didn’t steal the jewelry! I would never! I’m not a thief! I-I don’t know how my card was used. Maybe…maybe it was copied.” I’m clutching at straws because not one thing about this is making a shred of sense to me.

The detective is shaking his head at me.

“Yes,” I argue, “maybe someone stole it and then put it back.”

“Who, Daisy?” He leans forward. “Who would have done that?”

My brain scrambles. Then, it clings to the only other person in my house with me last night.

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