Courtney's Story

by Courtney

Copyright© 2016 by Courtney

Action/Adventure Story: A story of revenge in a confusing world.

Tags: Post Apocalypse  

A dark night had cast itself around me as I walked through the people milling about. I was no longer in a hurry. I knew where the man would be that I had come here to kill. Anger and hate boiled up inside of me at the thought of seeing his picture, his 'file', and his family. He taken my parents from me, but he had everything of his own. Why had this happened to me? What had made him do this? These questioned bounced around in my head as I aimlessly walked around this small town in Kansas. There were a lot of people here, the reports I had read indicated this was a year-round market place. How they got out of bed on the coldest mornings I had no idea.

I rounded a corner, memorizing my footsteps, when I heard a set of footsteps moving quickly up behind me. Keeping calm, and breathing shallower, I sped up. Listening intently. I had been through this alley four times now, at the other end, there would be a back entrance to a bakery, and on the right side, it would continue for 10 paces before T-ing off onto another side street.

"Hey" the voice behind me called out. "Hey wait up!"

I half turned, a rustic looking middle aged man was pacing me. He had a rifle slung across his back and his hand was resting lightly on a pistol at his side.

"Hey, I'm talking to you!" he said more loudly. "I need to talk to you!"

A pang of fear crept up into my stomach as I turned right down the alley way, I glanced back as I turned the corner, the man was gaining on me...

"OOFF!" I heard myself saying as I ran into something. I looked up, another middle aged man was standing in front of me, his left hand moved up and clasped onto my shoulder. I felt myself drifting out of it again, as my options quickly expired down to fight, I braced myself mentally.

"Hey!" The guy said again. "Good, you got her" he said to his companion. They were both wearing plad shirts.

"This one's cute" the man before me said.

"Listen honey" the man behind me said... "Just come along with us and you won't get hurt."

"Bull****" my subconscious told my conscious. "Now or never Courtney, don't hold back."

I twisted in the slightly relaxed grip of the man holding me and locked his left hand with both of mine, bringing his hand over my head and into and arm bar, I attacked with my right hand, a knife-hand strike to the side of his neck. He crumpled over. I reached down into my pocket and pulled out a switch blade, one of three that I had stashed on myself and I looked up. The other guy was struggling to get his pistol out.

I stepped in quickly, hitting the button to deploy the blade. SNAP! The 6" steel blade popped out of the small cylinder in my right hand.

As predicted, my would be co-rapist started trying to make distance by backing up. I lunged, bringing the knife up in a low arc towards his solar plexus. His left hand moved awkwardly to try to intercept my stab, but I was half a second quicker. The blade plunged up into the guy's abdomen. I quickly twisted the blade around a full circle before ripping it out in a downward cutting motion. Blood oozed out as my hand withdrew. The man crumpled to his knees and looked up at me, his hands tightly clenching a darkening red fountain. He toppled over, passing out. I looked over, his friend was coming to. I pulled the pistol out that the guy chasing me failed to get and I knelt by the second man. I pressed the gun tight into the other guy's back and squeezed the trigger.

POOFF POOFF POOFF ... the muffled gunshots echoed loudly off the surrounding buildings. I wondered if anyone had heard them as I stood up. I heard a creaking noise, and the door to the bakery was opening. Dropping the gun, I ran into the crowd.

I spent the next half hour walking aimlessly through vendor huts, money was no issue for me. Unlike most of my fellow Americans, when the bombs hit, I was well diversified into foreign banks, so when the feds came to take everyone's money, I simply had none. I carried the pre-blast equivalent of $10,000 on me most of the time in gold and silver, a little more than six ounces of each. But it goes faster when Gold is the standard currency, if I had to put a price on it, I'd say gold was now worth more like $200/oz. I remembered then my open transactions on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, one of the few still operational global exchanges.

I was about to head back to my car when I had a moment of thought. I wanted to try to find out where the man I had come to kill lived, so I doubled back to the bakery and ignoring the massive crowd of people gawking at the alley way, I moved quickly inside.

I saw that the tables were well kept, this was a nice place for where it was. A young lady behind the counter smiled at me and nodded to an open table. I shuffled over and plopped down. She came over a second later, and dutifully set a glass of water before me.

"Hi, I'm Jenny, what can I get for ya?" She asked in a definite southern accent.

"Whatever's good ... I'm lost in thought" I said absently.

"How about umm ... we just made some pain au chocolats..." She suggested

"Sure ... two ... and some hot chocolate too."

"Sure thing hon" she said quickly and walked purposefully back to her counter. I glanced to my right, and noted the older man sitting at the table reading a pile of documents. I wondered if I should interrupt ... it had been a while since I had any real conversation with someone above an apparent fourth grade education.

My mind wandered back again. I was suddenly back there, the ballroom, the orchestra ... and my parents. I heard myself talking, I could smell the champagne. It was lovely.

"Here ya go" the lady said, setting the plate and mug down. "That'll be 1oz of Silver..."

I pulled out one and a half ounces. "Here" I said absently, "thanks" She smiled and wandered off. I looked back up, the older guy was now looking at me.

"Not many people around here tip..." he said quietly, just above the commotion in the room. "I'm not from around here." I suggested.

"Most people aren't." He replied instantly. "Mind if I join you?"

"Sure" I replied ... after noting the wedding band on his left hand.

"I'm Dawson" He said, holding his hand out. "I'm sort of a co-mayor here."

"Courtney" I replied. "Nice to meet you ... been a while since I've had anyone to talk to."

"You're here alone?" he asked

"Yea" I replied, between bites. "I've been on the road a lot."

"Why?" he inquired, inquisitive eyes looking at me.

"I'm trying to find something that I haven't found." I replied truthfully.

"What?" he asked

"It's more of a who." I replied "I'm looking for the man who..." something inside me flickered. "Who broke my heart" I finished.

"Well then" He said, leaning back slightly. "Quite the ambitious journey."

"You have no idea." I sighed.

THREE YEARS AGO: ALL TIMES FROM HERE ON ARE GIVEN FROM THIS POINT!

"Hey you're really cute" Brad said, looking at me with a large grin.

"Thanks" I said blushing, my face was flush from my cheeks to my temples, the lines by my eyes were exaggerated by the color and shadow contrast.

He took half a step towards me, his right arm extending around behind my back. His hand planting itself in the small of my back, pulling me in towards him. Consciously, I took half a step in, lifting my head as I did so. His bright eyes looked down at me, anticipation and fear showing in his pupils. I lifted my head and...

"COURTNEY!!!!! COURTNEY!!!!! Get up!!! It's time for school ... COURTNEY!!!!!"

"UGH!" I said aloud, rolling over in bed. It always happened like this, just as my crush and I were about to finally unite in love, I always woke up. I laid there; looking over at the clock, 07:35am ... school would start at 08:30am. I tried to go back to sleep ... I wished I could just have one more moment in my dreamland, but it was to no avail. I rolled to the left, my feet found the floor as my cat, Shaun, jumped down from the bed, obviously angry that I was rolling around and interrupting his umpteenth hour of rest...

In the predawn twilight, supplemented by the light from the hallway, I reached around for my hairbrush and started unknotting my shoulder length auburn hair. It curls naturally, so I usually have to sort out a number of these little knots every morning. For a while, I had braided my hair before bed, and that seemed to work okay, but on days when I didn't want my hair to be extra curly – like today, I couldn't do that.

Today was tryouts for soccer. I have always played soccer, ever since I was about 8. My parents signed me up and set me on my way. At first I really didn't care for it, but then I realized I was better than everyone else, so I started to enjoy it. With this came popularity, and what girl doesn't like to be well liked. Today was also my birthday. I've been waiting for this day for a while, not because I was excited to be 17, but because I was excited in the most geeky of senses to be able to sing my favorite song from the "Sound of Music."

Picking up my phone, and ignoring the 50 Facebook notifications that so and so was wishing me a happy birthday, I thumbed my music player open and selected the song.

"You wait little girl ... on an empty stage..." the song began as I finally took to my feet. The music through my tiny phone speaker filled the room as I selected a blue skirt and a white with black vertical stripe blouse. Today, I felt like looking good, so I also grabbed some white and black knee-highs that would go with my flats. It wasn't quite the school girl look, but it was close. Our school has a really dumb policy restricting skirt lengths, but I'm a pretty conservative type, so I'm not going to dress like a slut!

"I am 16 ... going on 17 ... innocent as a rose" the song continued as I produced an acne wipe from a box beside my dresser and quickly wiped my face off before applying a modest layer of concealer to hide my slight imperfections. My last action before the song ended was to choose a silver cross on a silver chain and a pair of small diamond earrings. I wafted my hair back and tied it off, and went downstairs.

Like most mornings, my dad sat at the breakfast bar, his computer open and he was reading the financial news. My dad is a stockbroker of sorts, he started investing when he was in his early 30s after being fired from his job at a bank that collapsed in 2009. My mom is a dental hygienist, I guess she doesn't have to work, at least my dad keeps telling her this, but she insists.

"Good morning birthday girl" my dad said, his eyes barely shifting over the top of the computer as he said this.

"There she is! Looking beautiful today!" Mom said proudly... "Oh hunny, are you wearing that top? It doesn't go with that skirt..." she said after taking a longer look.

"I'll be fine mom" I said, rolling my eyes a little.

"Suit yourself honey, but the boys will be repelled from you." She said this using boy as plural, but she was only speaking of one boy in particular.

With a sigh, I tiredly sat at the table and stared down at my plate. Also like most mornings, it was an omelet.

"It's your favorite" mom said ... then added "broccoli cheddar" then she half turned when the toaster popped up and she slid a saucer plate with toast across the table to me. "Eat up honey" she said, smiling at me.

Breakfast, like most meals was very good. I won't lie and say I eat poorly, but I feel spoiled by this sometimes. Most of my peers are satisfied with a pop tart while running out the door. They can't understand how I can sit there for twenty minutes eating when I could use that time to sleep. My usual retort to this is that it's not my choice.

My school is a private school. It's really nice; we live in North Carolina, so there are a lot of schools that are, rather, underperforming. My classes include history, calculus, and introductory Latin. Yea, I thought it was a dead language too!

After school, I have soccer practice ... well, tryouts. Soccer to me is probably the most important thing to me. I have several posters of Mia Hamm in my bedroom, and I can keep a hacky-sack bouncing off my feet for a solid hour, until I get too tired to continue.

The boy I have a crush on, for all my gifts at soccer doesn't really know I exist. See, he's a track star, he's all state two years in a row, and he's a half of a year older than me. He gets the choice of girls from our school and it's so not fair! I never understood why boys want looks over quality. But whatever ... his loss.

The position I play in soccer is a left winger, I'm one of the few left-foot dominate people at my school, and since I am the only left footed person who plays soccer at my school, it was a natural fit and assured me a starting position since my freshman year. Like I said, I'm one of the best players. Last year, I scored an average of one unassisted goal per game, and I have assisted in many more. We're currently defending state champions! I like to credit myself for this, but our defense is solid.

My dad is sort of a financial guy, and I could usually tell how he did in the markets based on his mood when he got me. This afternoon when dad picked me up from soccer practice, his face was long, but his eyes were bright. I was confidently hopeful as I tossed by bag onto the backseat of the used Audi S8 he had bought a year before and I climbed into the passenger seat. He looked at me, and smiled.

"So ... when do you know?" he asked, his voice even ... not a good sign.

"Well dad, I'm the only left footed winger who can shoot ... I will be a starter." I said, tiredly... "is everything okay?"

I usually asked this because I knew he wanted to tell me about his trading adventures anyways. He has this crazy idea that I of all people will become a day trader like him after I graduate and support him and mom! Crazy, right? So, he looked at me for a second and started laughing to himself.

"What's wrong?" I asked

"Nothing's wrong ... we're going to be just fine." He said, his laugh changing into a slight chuckle and then a large grin made itself known.

"What do you mean by that?" I asked

"Well honey" he said, taking my hand after shifting the car into drive... "daddy made a bundle of money today, so much in fact that your college fund is already paid in full..."

I was pretty tired, so I said "that's great," I was a bit in shock that I'd be able to go to Stanford now, so I didn't know how to react.

"That's great..." he said, he mocked my reactions. "That's more than great. When we get home, I'll show you what I found."

I relaxed into the seat and I pulled my phone out of my backpack and started fiddling around on Facebook. Several more people had apparently "remembered" it was my birthday and were well-wishing me.

"They're so fake" I muttered to myself as I scrolled through the comments.

"What's that?" dad asked

"These people are so fake ... they didn't even remember my birthday until Facebook reminded them." I replied

"You know, when I was your age, we didn't have Facebook..." dad said, I rolled my eyes... "We had this unfathomable thing called memory, and an even more unfathomable thing called responsibility."

ty."

"I know dad..." I said dryly...

He laughed and ran his fingers over my knee, as he did since I was old enough to be ticklish. I spasmodically kicked out then flushed with embarrassment.

"You know, you've done that since you were four" he said, grinning.

"I know dad" I said again, "You tell me every day how ticklish I am"

"Does that boy know you exist yet?" he asked next he's dating that hoe--rrible girl... " I corrected mid sentence.

"Watch your language young lady!" He said, cutting me off.

"Sorry, he is with that ... ummm ... popular girl Rebecca." I replied

"You know you're too good for him ... right?" He asked next, glancing across the cabin at me.

"I know dad..." I said for the third time. This was my default response when I didn't have a good answer.

"What about that other boy, Mark?" he asked

"He's taken also dad..." I said, frowning, half at him and half at the text that just popped up. "Dad ... I said quietly"

"Yes hun?" He said in reply

"Erin's dad just got fired."

"Who is Erin?" He asked

"Oh, you didn't go to that did you ... she's a girl from Raleigh..." Erin was a girl I met at a soccer camp that mom took me to because Dad was at a conference back in 2008.

"What did he do again?" He asked

"He was in manufacturing..." I said... "They got outsourced according to her, she's wondering if you know any one hiring."

"Me?!" My dad said, a bit taken back. "I'm sorry, but I don't" he said as he turned the car onto our street.

"It's okay" I said sighing... "They'll be okay, he was a manager ... they were very well off."

I don't like to think of myself as entitled, but the public school kids frequently egg and 'tee-pee' our house because they think I'm an entitled princess. It's true that we don't have a mortgage, and I guess, as of today, my future is secured through college, but it wasn't always like this. We actually really struggled for a while. I guess the thing that really sets us apart from the other families in our neighborhood is that I don't attend the public school, because dad said I needed a more classicized education or I'd be corrupted with the nonsense they pan off as education in the public system. But our house wasn't the biggest on the street, it isn't the smallest either, and we only had one nice car ... I guess flying outside of the normal behavior makes you a target.

"Come on honey" dad said, as he grabbed my duffle bag. "I'm really excited to show this to my future investor."

Dad thinks I will be a good investor because I'm good at math. I'm 17 now and taking college calculus. I aced through the tests to get here, but I don't consider myself that smart. But I guess in the world of numbers, being able to count is a leg up on the competition.

"Can I shower first?" I asked, giving him the pouty look that has saved me from being grounded twice.

"No" he replied, apparently accustomed to my 'looks'. "Sit" he said quickly, after he ushered me into his office. He sat at his desk and turned on the big screen TV hooked up to his computer. He has three 27" monitors for his computer, and a big 65" TV on the wall, it was this TV that he moved the day's trading action onto for better analysis. Once he did this, he came and sat with me.

"What do you see?" he asked, pinching his nose closed.

"A bunch of red and green ... candlesticks" I said, remembering what the chart indicators were called.

"What else"

"A lot of red ones?" I said more to myself, but in response.

He chuckled... "Okay, fine" he used a wireless mouse and hit a button, several lines overlaid the chart and a small table of figures displayed below. "Now what do you see?"

"A really big crash is brewing" I said, this time with more confidence.

"Exactly" He moused over a section of green. "What's this called?"

"A bull trap?" I guessed...

"More specifically?" He replied almost at once.

"A dead cat bounce." I replied

"Good, so when I saw this happen, I shorted everything ... I margined out 3:1 against the indexes and I covered before the bell."

"So how much did you run away with?" I asked, now quite interested

"A little under six million" he replied, very proud of himself.

"Oh my" I said, gasping as I did so.

"But you cannot tell anyone about this, do you understand? No one can know we're now wealthy."

"Okay dad" I said quietly. "But dad..."

"Yes?" he asked

"Now that you can afford it, can I have a car?" I said, re-adopting my puppy dog look.

"You stink, go shower" He said, laughing... "go shower and we'll talk to mom about that car..."

"Thanks daddy" I said, I smiled and ran up stairs.

I was thankful that no one had done laundry that day because our water heater really sucks, it's too small, and takes forever to refill. I twisted the handle and the shower came to life. A few moments later steam was filling the room.

I quickly stripped down and hopped in. You can't imagine how good the water feels after you've been running around all day. But like I said, our water heater sucks, so taking a long hot shower was a luxury I didn't have. At times I thought this was by design, my dad would have been acutely aware that girls take long showers ... so he didn't bother to fix the water heater. What a jerk!

That night, we had steak. I guess it was even more of a celebration now, I had survived for another year, and dad had just retired from investing. Mom was flabbergasted when he told her, she asked if it would be okay if she stopped working in order to be with me more. Dad said it was okay if that's what she wanted. I had never seen them happier together. I guess sometimes money does buy happiness.

After dinner, I started on my homework. I'd have to work extra hard now as I wanted my parents to let me actually have a car. All my friends had cars, I was the loser who didn't have one ... even more embarrassingly, I was still being carted around by my parents.

The next morning, the cycle repeated, though this time I didn't have the unfortunate experience of meeting my crush and being torn from that dreamscape, no, this time I was actually having a productive dream when my mom got me up. She didn't yell this time, she actually came to my room and knocked quietly.

"Courtney..." she said, her voice just above a whisper

"Mmmmhmmm" I mumbled in reply, the dreamscape of scoring the winning extra time goal at the Olympics quickly vanished.

"Honey, it's time to get up" she said, I could hear the satisfaction in her voice of ruining another dream of mine.

Like every day, I plod down and started getting myself together.

This morning was a little different, dad was cooking, not reading. There was no computer on the table, instead there were physical news papers, dad was cutting a slab of bacon up with a carving knife.

"Want some bacon?" he asked

"Sure" I replied... "Dad, I had an idea"

"What's that?" he asked, half turning.

"It's about the stock market ... I had a dream about it before I was in the Olympics."

"What's up?" he said, producing a pen and writing on the meat wrapper.

"Well, all crashes have a reversal at some point" I said

"Yes..." he said, retaking the knife and cutting.

"I think you should short the indexes with a little of your money some more ... there's still a few thousand points to go." I said, the morning fog had lifted when I started drinking my Simply Orange.

"You do huh?" he said "It's a big risk"

"I know dad, but you taught me to be a fundamentalist ... remember?" I asked, a fundamentalist isn't a radical sect of a religion, it's a technical trader who considers the charts and the fundamentals of the underlying investment.

"I know... " he said, a little unsure.

"I know you want to protect your investment, but take 1 million of that..." I started before he cut me off with a laugh.

"Honey ... that's your college money" he reminded me.

"I know dad, but trust me, put it against those companies you did yesterday, you saw the same charts I did ... you know they will fall some more yet."

"I know honey ... but it's better to be safe than sorry." He reminded me

"Then use 500k ... surely you can spare that."

He sighed at this and started washing his hands. "Come with me" he said

I followed him into the office, behind me, I could hear mom cooking the meat.

"This is on you ... this is YOUR first trade. You have 500k, good luck." He said as he logged into the trading software, there was exactly 500k left after he wired the rest out.

"You mean it?" I asked

"It's yours ... the rest is ... safe." He said, he was referring to one of several international businesses he maintained.

"Okay" I said, selecting the three companies I'd studied the previous day, I divided the 500k up evenly between them and when a small pre-market uptick happened, I clicked 'sell short' ... and the order executed.

"Alright, now get ready for school." He said "we're going to be late."

School took forever. We're not allowed to have our phones in school, or personal computers, so I had no way of knowing whether or not I had done the right thing that morning. Anxiety gripped me as I saw the black Audi S8 turn into the parking lot and pull up to the round-about. There was no soccer practice today, we'd get to learn of our fates tomorrow.

I opened the door quietly and climbed in.

"Did I do the right thing?" I asked

"Well, hello to you also" he said, taking my hand. "You lost everything."

My jaw dropped. Then he smiled. I reflexively slapped his shoulder.

"You made a little bit... " he corrected himself as he started driving.

"How much" I asked

"Doubled down..." he replied

"Did you cover?" I asked

"I will let you choose when to do that." He said next

"I want to cover immediately." I said, a little more confidently.

"You said the market will crash totally" he reminded me.

"I know, but I'd rather try to play the upside..." I said

"Ah, the optimist is still there" he smiled

We got home a few minutes later and I ran to the office and waited for dad to come patiently walking in. He logged me in and I was astonished at how much money had been made.

"What about the market safeguards?" I asked

"Yea, those have been tripping all day..." he said

"Gosh ... this is really bad..." I said to myself, but aloud. "I guess I'll stay for now..."

He shrugged. "It's all the same to me hun, it's your money. Your mom and I are retired."

I frowned and looked back at the screen. "I think I'm going to be sick tomorrow." I said...

"You're healthy as an ox..." he replied, not getting my hint.

"No, I mean, I want to be home tomorrow ... please daddy!!" I begged.

"No, you have to go to school." He said

I sighed. I didn't really care about soccer now, I was too hungry to stake my fortune.

Dad turned the news on, the Ukraine conflict ... what had started out as a protest, and then a revolution, then a proxy war between the old east and west ... was starting to make itself known. Russian troops had taken the Chrimera ... it all seemed so far away, yet we were watching these Russian tanks drive up a Ukrainian highway in 1080p. The plumes of smoke wafting behind their formation.

"It's getting bad out there ... he said, might be a good idea to consider diversifying into making a play against the hryvnia" He said to me.

"The what?" I asked, now twirling my hair as I thought.

"Stop abusing your hair" he said, looking over his shoulder... "The hryvnia is the currency of the Ukraine."

"Okay" I said quietly, I really didn't know what he was talking about... "I'll cover and diversify" I said

"Good girl ... what is rule number one again?"

"Protect my principle"

"Good" he said, motioning to the chair... "have at it." I put the order in to cover and it triggered immediately in afterhours trading. The FOREX market, which I learned was short for foreign exchange, is a 24/7 trading arena for currency swappers. I bet 500k against the hyvrrnaaa ... or however you spell/say it ... and I logged off.

"So, now what?" I asked

"Now, you do your homework." He said, his smile brightened the room around him.

"Ugh, okay dad..." I said, sighing as I did so, and I wandered off.

So as you may have guessed, I brushed aside my 'other' homework and got to work on math. I guess I should tell you that since I was like five, I've been good at solving problems ... most types of problems at least ... the one problem I can't seem to solve is how to make this boy leave this girl and fall in love with ... ah nevermind.

The next few days passed, and soccer camp began. I was sad to learn we had a late entrant on our soccer squad, her name is like Natasha or something like that, she has a weird accent, and she's amazing at all positions ... which means that my starting job is officially in jeopardy. So to hopefully save my starting job, I started jogging at night.

There's this high school about two and a half miles from our house, I would never attend studies there though, it's not really the nicest school, but it's exactly 2.5 miles, so I run around it and come back. The only troubling part of the school is it's frequented by ... umm ... I don't want to sound racist here, but it's frequented by black kids.

Soccer camp after school was going pretty well, they decided to let Natasha run a hybrid position, and she was a starter, she played higher than she was supposed to, which frustrated us, but the coaches seemed to not mind, since she passed the ball.

After soccer, I would go home and play on the computer, not computer games or anything, but I would do aftermarket trades, and I'd dabble on the FOREX market which was open 24/7, thanks to some risky calls that were probably less risky since the Ukrainian conflict was really heating up, I managed to make a nice chunk of change each evening, roughly $300 or so ... not a lot, but it adds up.

One evening, I was busily trading away when the couch to my left suddenly sank and my dad looked over across my shoulder, deliberately interposing his head.

"Yes dad?" I asked

"Your mom wanted to know if you want any dessert..." he said "You were unresponsive" he added a moment later.

"I guess so ... hang on" I sighed, cocking my head around his. "I'm trying to clear my goal of $500 tonight..."

"Okay!" He sighed, as he stood... "But, it's strawberry cheesecake..."

Strawberry cheesecake is one of the few things in life that I simply cannot live without. Down in our neck of the woods, we have a few growers who give us a good rate because we pay in cash and we buy a lot of produce ... my eyes immediately shot up off the screen and looked for confirmation on his face, he wasn't lying. I made a wry grin and looked towards the kitchen, my mom was sitting at the table working on a slab herself. Sighing, I closed the computer and trudged out.

Six weeks later

"Ahh Yrrr!" I said, stretching, I looked over at the clock, it was 9:33am and I deserved every bit of sleep I could get. The sun shone brightly through the half closed curtains as I rolled down and my feet found the floor. Wobbly, I stood up and my nose caught the whiff of waffles. I trudged down stairs and put some waffle batter on the waffle iron and went to see where everyone else was.

I heard a loud crash, then the sound of boxes falling in the garage, then I heard laughing. I started turning the door handle when my mom yelled "Courtney, no!" So I stepped back from the door, my mom came inside a moment later, making sure to keep me from seeing into the garage.

"What's going on?" I asked, a quizzical expression crossing my face

"Nothing hun, go eat" My mom said humored, "Your dad is just having some issues."

"Okay" I shrugged and pulled my golden brown waffle from the iron. My dad came in as I sat down, he was carrying a 10" cube box and a smaller box. He set these on the counter and went to wash off.

"What's going on?" I asked

"Nothing" mom replied, now brushing the counter off.

"Okay" I sighed again. I finished eating and washed my plate, then went to find where I left my computer the previous evening. I was in the middle of writing a small notation beside a pattern of a company I thought might be about to "run" for it, when my dad set the big box behind me, I looked up and mom was at his side.

"What's this?" I asked

"It's a gift hun" Mom said, through a large smile. I cautiously opened the box, and inside was a 1:32 scale model of a Porsche Boxster. I hefted the aluminum sculpture.

"Congratulation hun. You have a car!" Mom said

I smiled. They laughed. Then I frowned. Dad handed me the smaller box, I quickly opened it and found a pair of keys within. They didn't say Porsche on them, sadly, but they had the four rings of Audi imprinted on their rectangular remote bodies. My heart skipped a beat.

"You got me a car?" I asked

"No hun" my mom said, she looked at my dad. "We got a new car, so you can have the Audi." My dad added.

I looked back and forth between them before hurriedly setting the computer down and jumping up to embrace them both. "Thank you!" I said "Thank you!!!!!!" Then I thought about it...

"What kind of car did you get to replace it?" I asked, wondering if I could leverage my way into a nicer car.

"Oh, just a boring Aston Martin ... Nothing you'd be interested in." My dad said quietly ... almost calmly.

"Oh" I mocked. "That sucks" I added

"Quite so, so you will be happy with your hand-me-down?" Mom asked

"I guess"

So I finally had my own car.

Later that night, I was feeling fat, so I elected I'd go running. It was like 9;30pm, so I'd have to hurry and get going before the sun fully set. I changed into my running garb, and strapped my iPhone to my arm and put on my favorite music, and said my goodbyes as I trotted out the door.

I glanced down at my pace watch and got myself into a nice 7:15 mile pace, it was a little slower than I'd usually go, but I wanted to relax and just enjoy myself tonight, and not feel like I need to kill myself.

With the sounds of #Selfie coursing through my head, I rounded the back of the school. Suddenly I was falling, every sense of my being reported that my left foot had hit something, and my balance was gone. I looked up and saw I was headed for a patch of grass which would mercifully break my fall. I landed in a thud, then rolled onto my right side and then flat on my back, I looked up the sky for a moment. My head spun a little. I shut my eyes for a second and then they snapped open when I heard voices during the song intermission, I looked straight up, five faces stared down at me. My face froze in shock, and then started to get up, a dirty boot presented itself on my chest and pushed me back down. The five faces erupted in laughter.

I again tried to get up, the boot returned and pushed me back down, this time, the boy who the boot belonged to pressed down, half standing on me. Adrenaline started coursing through my veins now as the flight or fight response kicked in. I kicked out, striking one boy just above the knee, he half fell before stabilizing himself. In the distraction, I twisted my body to free myself. One of the boys to my left stepped up and grabbed my left arm, holding it in a two handed vice. I tried every way to get out of his grip, but another boy grabbed my right arm. A third came over and ripped my arm band off, tossing my phone into the bushes. The boy who I kicked came limping over to me, I was half sitting at this point, held by the two boys on my arms, with a third using his foot to pin my legs at my knees.

The boy who I kicked knelt in front of me, beside his friend. It was dark now, the sodium parking lot lights cast a weird orange glow across this boy's face. He grinned, a large buck tooth smile. He reached into his pocket and produced a knife. I started struggling again, squirming against the two holding my arms ... my struggle paused when a blow to my left cheek came out of nowhere. I'd never really been hit before, so I sat there, in their grip in a stunned daze. The boy on the right side of me repeated his friend's gesture, and knocked me in the right cheek. My head started spinning. The boy kneeling in front of me slapped me four or five times until I snapped back into the moment., he pressed a button and a soft "click" was heard, then a silver tinge caught the orange light. He then pressed it to my throat.

Gulping involuntarily, my eyes locked into his merciless black eyes. He turned the knife and pushed it into my top the cloth gave way with no second thought. I felt my clothes being cut away and started struggling again, I tried to cry out, but a hand clenched over my mouth tight enough I could hardly breathe. Desperate for oxygen, my struggle intensified.

Somehow, I got my right leg free and kicked out at the boy with the knife, sadly my kick missed. He stood up and using his boot, landed a really hard blow to my midsection, it completely knocked the wind out of me. I started coughing through the hand clenched to my mouth and my world started turning gray. I felt the rest of my attire fall away. I saw a bright flash, and then another. It took me a moment to realize that someone was using a camera phone to take pictures, and now to record the moment ... the phone's screen was luminous in the otherwise stale air behind the school.

I detached from my body then, as I felt myself being forced into a position I was struggling mightily to resist. I felt a very sharp crack against my head and then ... my world went dark. My eyes opened quickly then, bright lights shone all around me.

[Crowd roars!]

The sensation of the stadium was amazing, or so I thought, I looked around, down by one, final game of the World Cup, I spun around and spotted the ball being passed to another of my team mates, I turned and examined the defense and then took off running.

My team mate spotted what I was doing and launched the ball, the ball took off well above head height and arced towards the left side of the field, I twisted and noted the ball's trajectory, it would be a little wide, so I'd have to compensate for it. Two defenders were also trying to get to me, I calculated I had a half second window with which to tie the game for Team USA.

Two strides away from my determined striking spot, I lept, twisting my body as I took flight, coiling my left leg, and then the kick, like a snake attacking its prey, my striking leg hit the ball, sending it the ball hurling towards the goal at a breath taking velocity. I landed in a thud, my brain told me ... the ball was almost there. I waited, my heart thumped. Elation filled me as the crowd erupted in applause and cheer...

"Courtney!" the chanted... "Courtney" a now more male voice said, out of place with the crowd noise... "Courtney!" the voice repeated, now much more clear.

The fog of my dreamscape lifted and I woke up, two uniformed officers kneeling over me, one was going through my phone, and the other was coordinating with a paramedic somewhere off in the distance. I couldn't move, I was in too much shock as two more people joined the officers, dressed in blue shirts. Panic filled me as they made sour faces, then I was rolled and strapped to a stretcher, tears ran down my face as my memory came back to me.

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