“Oh my God, I can’t believe Corny Coral is following us again.”
I dropped my gaze to the cracked sidewalk. Where else did the airhead think I was going to walk from high school when I lived next door to her?
“Corny Coral is such a freak,” her friend squealed in that shrill voice that grated on your nerves. Couldn’t she come up with something Nicole hadn’t already conjured in the ten years since we’d been neighbors? Freak was the first thing Nicole had called me, the day she’d moved in. I’d been jumping on my new trampoline, a birthday present from my parents.
“You’re a freak,” Nicole had called through the hedge. “Hey, what’s your name?”
For future reference, call someone a freak and then ask his or her name. Be certain to do it in a most obnoxious, make-sure-to-loathe-me-forever voice.
“Oh, Coral.” Hence the nickname of Corny Coral.
“Can’t you make her go away?” another of those idiotic friends of Nicole’s asked. In one hand, she held a little mirror. The other hand applied black eyeliner, as she walked.
“Corny Coral, go away. Don’t come back another day,” Nicole chanted.
I stared at my scuffed combat boots; the skull laces bounced with each step.
Nicole and her friends turned the corner, and four sidewalk-squares later, I turned after them. Across the street, a rusty truck loomed with two guys leaning against the hood guzzling beer.
One guy’s slurred voice crossed over the street. “Hey, man, ya know wot’d be cool?”
“Ya ever wonder if those kidnappin’ ransoms really work?”
“Wot d’ya mean?”
“Like if we kidnapped somebody, would anybody pay us?” They made it sound as if kidnapping was a fun sport to do on the weekends. Let’s go play some basketball and then kidnap a little kid from a stroller.
A door slamming turned my attention back to the truck. They’d gotten in and revved the engine. They weren’t seriously going to go kidnap someone, right?
I repeated the license plate in my mind just in case…but no way this was real. They’d sober up and never remember thinking it was a thrill to kidnap.
The truck pulled up next to Nicole. The driver door opened and the guy spoke to her. She walked up to the vehicle, one hand on her flounced hip.
They weren’t going to kidnap a little kid.
“Nicole, run!” I bolted into a sprint.
The guy grabbed her arm and she screamed as he hauled her flailing body into the truck.
I dashed to the door while her pathetic friends broke into hysterical tears. “Do something!”
The guy grabbed me by the arms and the cement left from under my feet. More hands…elbow…knees. I squeezed between the driver and hysterical Nicole.
The door slammed and the truck sped down the deserted street.
“Let us out!” I saw a crushed beer can on the floor and Nicole half-sprawled on the guy’s lap where she thrashed on the torn leather seats, rivers of mascara, blush, and foundation running over her high-cheekbones. I looked up at the driver, into the barrel of his glistening pistol.
“Oh God, I’m gonna die,” Nicole screeched.
“Whoever talks gets her head blown off,” the driver snarled. Drops of spittle sprayed between us, searing like burning acid.
I couldn’t do something stupid, like open the window and leap out. Nicole depended on me, and despite my utter loathing of her, I couldn’t just leave her.
I grabbed the hand with the gun and slammed my heel into the driver’s leg. He yelped, releasing the gas pedal, and I slammed my heel into the break. The truck screeched to a stop on old brakes. I rolled onto the floor while their three heads slammed into the windshield. The fingers around the gun loosened, so I seized it as I rolled to my knees, my other hand opening the door. It swung outward, missing a convertible in the other lane. As I jumped down, the driver grabbed me by the back of my shirt.
“Cora,” Nicole sobbed. In the depths of peril, she remembered my name.
“They’re trying to kidnap us. Help.” I swung my elbow into the assailant’s arm in a sickening crunch. He yelped, releasing me, and I fell from the vehicle, the gun spinning across the pavement.
“Leave her,” the driver yelled as the truck started up again.
I stood, ignoring my scraped knees and arms. A little red car slowed as it neared my bleeding body, so I ran to the open window. “Those guys in the truck tried to kidnap me and they’ve still got that girl. Nicole! They had a gun. I dunno if they have another one. See, that’s the gun they had!”
The man whipped his cell phone out to 9-1-1 and handed me the phone. The moment the woman said hello, I babbled, still rambling to her when the policeman drove up.
With my memory of the license plate, the police stopped the truck. On the news, they centered on Nicole, the unfortunate victim of a senseless, random kidnapping. She participated in choir, made honor roll, the favorite among students and teachers. She came from a dysfunctional family, yet she’d never let it bring her down. Now, she had a second chance at life.
From the trampoline, I watched Nicole conversing with the crews from the news channels. They offered sympathetic hugs. She held the teddy bears strangers had sent, while nodding at the floral gifts decorating the patio.
As the crews walked away, she looked up at me and smiled a genuine thank-you beam.
“Hey there, Corny Coral.” The screen door slammed shut after Nicole’s perfect ponytail bobbed through.
My short stories and poetry are published in Short Story Me, Danse Macabre, Bewildering Stories, Writing Raw, Dark and Dreary Magazine, Storyhouse, the Magical Library, RiverSedge, and AboutTeens. My work has won awards in The XPress and Utica Writers Club. I am the current vice president of the Utica Writers Club and have my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
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