We stepped into a dark foyer, heavy drapes blocked out any light from the windows up front. The stale air around us made it hard to breathe. Heather reached out and grabbed my hand. She was scared, hell I was scared. I had no idea what we had walked into.
"Girls, come back this way, it's much more comfortable." Lydia said as she motioned us towards the back of the house. We followed her down the hallway and into the kitchen, which was open to the dining room. The drapes were pulled back allowing the sun to filter in. The light eased my fears for the moment as it allowed me to fully take a look and my surroundings. The dining room contained a small table and four chairs, other than the large fireplace in the corner the room was empty.
"Please sit down. I'll get us something to drink. It seems we have a lot to talk about." She said as she headed towards the kitchen. We both sat so we could see what she was doing in the kitchen. I watched her carefully as pulled out a pitcher of what looked like iced tea and poured into glasses for us. She was very thin and frail looking. Her features were striking and I could tell she was a stunning woman. Life had just not been kind to her by the look of worry and fear that constantly crossed her face.
She walked back over to the table carrying a tray with our drinks and some cookies. She set the tray in the center of the table and hesitantly sat down."
"I'm not sure where we should start." She paused looking at me seriously "Why are you here Alivia, how did you find me?"
I swallowed hard suddenly very nervous to speak to her. "I don't really know why I'm here" I admitted "I went to my parents grave one day, saw the flowers you sent and was curious. At first I thought they were from a relative or someone I knew, and when I questioned the people at the flower shop and they told me that they had been delivering the same bouquet every week I felt compelled to find out who you were. I have never heard your name before in my life. How do you know my parents? "I had finally asked the million dollar question. I studied her face for reaction.
"But how did you find out my address and my name?" There was slight hint of panic in her voice as she asked.
"It wasn't hard, I just asked and made up a story about you being my family member… Listen I am sorry for just showing up here I didn't mean to intrude or make you uncomfortable I just ..." I didn't know what to say. "I just need to know who you are. I have nobody left, no family …" I suddenly felt very stupid for coming this way and barging in on this woman.
Lydia reached over and put her hand on my shoulder. "It's okay Alivia, I've often wondered about you. It's not you I'm hiding from."
"Who are you hiding from?" the surprise in my voice apparent.
She took a deep breath and let her hand fall from my shoulder, "I'm hiding from the man that killed your parents"
I gasped. I had only just found out that they were killed. How did she know? I looked over at Heather, her eyes were wide as saucers and I could see the confusion covering her face. She looked over at me and I nodded confirming what she had heard. I opened my mouth to say something but just closed it again when no words came out.
We were all silent for a few moments. Lydia was struggling with how to proceed. Finally she broke the silence.
"My parents died when I was a very little girl and my grandmother raised me until I was about your age and she passed. After she died I went to go live with my mother's sister and her husband Luther. Luther wasn't happy that my Aunt had opened their home to me. He used to curse her and me daily. He was a horrible man, he would beat my aunt to the point I thought she was going to die, and in rural Russia there is no 911 the way it is here in the states.
After one particularly bad beating I decided that I was going to run away as I would rather be on the streets than there. I had my bags packed and was going to leave first thing in the morning. I should have left in the middle of the night because that very night Luther came into my bedroom and grabbed me up out of bed saying he had a job for me. I was half asleep and in my nightgown as he drug me out of the house and threw me into the back of a van. There were 5 other girls in the back of that van with me. We were all the same age and terrified. "
She paused and took a sip of her tea. Her hand was trembling as she set her glass back down. For a split second she was in the back of that van once again. Heather and I were speechless. We just stared at her as she collected herself unable to speak, not knowing where this was going or what to say to her. I felt sick to my stomach.
She noticed us staring and gave us a halfhearted smile "I will spare you girls the gory details but my Uncle was in the human trafficking business. He sold young Russian girls to whomever to do whatever they pleased with. Although I was never sold to anyone in particular he loaned me to anyone and everyone he was doing business with. I suppose it was a perk of being family. "The disgust in her voice was apparent. "I also had an important job… he forced me to lure the girls in, trick them into coming back with me. I was a terrible person, for doing it and I live with that guilt every day. It was survival. He threatened to kill me and my aunt if I didn't cooperate."
I reached over and took her hand. The world was full of monsters. I imagined how scared she and those girls must have been.
"That went on for a couple of years in Russia but Luther's operation was expanding so to speak. Did you know there is a huge market for American girls? At least that's what he told me when he moved the operation here. He had bought a compound somewhere out west and needed security. He had his own people inside dealing with the girls, but he felt he needed something more for the rest of the property. One of his customers recommended your fathers company to him.
I remember watching your dad and his associate. I forget his name but he a very handsome man, much younger than your father.
Anyway, I was saying I remember watching them as they talked to Luther wanting to scream and tell them that he wasn't trafficking drugs, which is what he told them. I wanted to scream that he was selling girls, young innocent girls. Fate must have smiled on me that day, because one Luther's men said he needed him urgently in another room, and Luther asked me to give your dad and his associate a tour of the property. I remember thinking that your dad had the kindest eyes I had ever seen, and I trusted him immediately. I just knew he would help me. When we were far enough away from the house I began sobbing and telling them everything. You're father put his arm around me and told me that they would help me. He didn't even have a second thought. The man he was with became enraged after hearing with Luther did, pulled out his gun and began heading back to the house ready for war. But your father stopped him and told him that he needed to be smart, and that going in guns blazing would be suicide.
Your dad was so calm and collected. They put me into their car and we left immediately. I begged and begged for them to not make me talk to the police. I was afraid I would be in trouble for my part in luring the girls in. Your father assured me I wouldn't be in trouble but promised to not involve me. By the time the authorities got their warrants and searched the place Luther and the girls were gone. He knew what I done the moment I went missing.
They brought me back to Florida, and set me up in an apartment until everything could be sorted out. Your dad introduced me to your mother, and she bought me clothes and cleaned me up. She was an angel. Alivia your parents loved you so much. They always spoke about you. You were the light of their life. I asked them once why they were helping me, and they said that they would hope if something ever happened to you and they were not there to help you someone would show you the same kindness. A few weeks before they died you father came to see me and gave me a new identity, with all the necessary documents a passport, an ID, and a social security card. He even gave me money. He told me that he was receiving threats and that he suspected it was Luther. He told me that he and your mom wouldn't be coming to see me anymore since they didn't want to lead Luther to me if they were being followed. He told me that they would see me again one day and that they would find me when things calmed down. That was the last time I ever saw him." She was sobbing now. "Alivia your dad saved my life, and in return he lost his and so did your mom. I am so sorry."
I didn't know what to say or do. I just sat motionless in the chair as I felt my heart breaking again and again.
"Your dad told me that nobody knew about my new identity and that I would be safe, which is why I used the credit card I opened to send those flowers. I never thought anyone would find me. Now I have to leave and go somewhere else. I am glad it was you who found me instead of Luther. I will be smarter next time."
"You don't have to keep running. My dad's partner, Mr. Delaney can help protect you. That's what they do, they keep people safe. .."
She cut me off mid-sentence, "No Alivia, I have already caused enough damage and cost two people their lives. I am not involving you or anyone else. It's okay really darling I didn't like this shit town anyway." She attempted a smile but I knew she was scared.
I reached in my bag and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote my name and phone number down for her. "Lydia, you really should let me help you. My dad would want me to. Here is my number please if you need anything or if you change your mind call me. I know that Mr. Delaney would help you. I know it"
"Please don't tell him you found me. I don't need anyone to know I exist."
I nodded "Okay, but remember call me for anything please remember you don't have to be scared."
"Thanks Alivia, now girls if you don't mind I have to get some things in order and you should probably get going. It's already 4pm it will be so late by the time you get home.
We both jumped up not realizing that the time had flown by so quickly. She led us back to the front and quickly waved goodbye before closing the door and locking it behind us. We hurried back to the car. I had never been so happy to be back in the comfortable interior of Heathers mustang. She started the engine and we began to drive away.
"Holy shit Ali, I don't even know what to say"
"I know me either. Let's just not say anything for a while okay. I need the quiet to process it. "
"Yeah, me too…"
We pulled out onto the main road in silence. There really was nothing in this town. We had just passed a gas station and now there wasn't anything but farmland on either side for miles. I noticed in the distance the three black SUV's speeding down the road heading towards us. We both watched in shock as they sped past.
"Those don't fit in here either" Heather chuckled. I didn't find it funny though. I got a pit in my stomach. I leaned close to the window so I could look into the side mirror and see where they were headed. My heart dropped into my shoes when I saw them all abruptly make a U-turn and start heading back towards us. Before I could even comprehend what was happening one of them passed us and cut across our lane causing us to slam on the breaks to keep form hitting it, another pulled up beside us and the last one stayed behind us. We were boxed in.
"What the fuck" Heather screamed. I sat frozen and watched as the passenger door to the Suv next to us opened up and Delaney stepped out.
He had a murderous look on his face. I had never been so scared in my life. Another man came around from the driver's side of the SUV. He was bigger than Delaney, but didn't scare as much as he did in the moment. Delaney stalked over to the car, coming around to my side he pulled the door open and yanked me out of the car by my upper arm.
I nearly fell onto the ground as my feet slid on the gravel.
"You're hurting me!" I yelled trying to yank my arm free from his grip. He only squeezed tighter I could feel the rage radiating off of him. He didn't even look at me. He just carried me over to the SUV and threw me into backseat.
"Make one fucking attempt to get out of this truck and I will hog tie you."
He slammed the door and walked back over to Heathers car. He was at driver's side now talking to her through the window. They talked for a few minutes and I wondered what she was saying to him. She got out and went into the passenger seat of her own car while the other big man who had gotten out with Delaney climbed into the driver's seat. The truck blocking the car in the front pulled out giving them room to drive off. Delaney went over to the other vehicles briefly. Clearly giving them orders and they each drove off. He stalked back over to the truck I was in and I suddenly couldn't hold it in anymore. I began crying uncontrollably.
He got into the truck and without giving so much as a glance he began to drive.