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Tatia’s Tattoo: Chapter 19 – ON THE STROLL… Read it here!

Tatia hated picking up clients on the street. She never knew whether she was picking up a crazy man or a cop.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo and will continue through Chapter 20. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 19. Chapter 20 will be posted on Thursday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

CHAPTER 19: ON THE STROLL…

The first time she was arrested, she was sporting a dark, shoulder-length pageboy. A new client had requested a brunette, so Eric had purchased a wig for her. The client must have been pleased, because he left her a nice tip. After he left, she went into the bathroom to freshen up and make sure her hair was on straight. She didn’t really like the look. The darker color made her face look harsh and angular, and the darker make-up Cindy had told her to use looked overdone. Still, if the client was happy, Eric was happy – and if Eric was happy, so was she.

Eric had said she was booked almost solid for the next several hours, so she was surprised when her phone rang. When she was working, she set it to let only calls from Eric come through, and he never called her while she was entertaining clients.

“Hello?” she said, wondering what she had done wrong now.

“Hey, Tatia,” Eric said in a pleasant tone. “How’d the guy like you as brunette?”

Tatia relaxed a bit, hoping she wasn’t in trouble after all. “He liked it. He left me an extra twenty bucks.”

“Good job. I’ll split the tip with you.”

Tatia started to protest, but she knew better. At least he was only taking half. “Thanks, Eric.”

“No problem, kiddo. Hey, you had a couple of cancellations and a couple of unfilled time slots, so your next client won’t be there for an hour or so.”

Tatia breathed a silent sigh of relief and thought about the book she had just downloaded today. She always carried her reader with her, just in case, and she felt a rush of hopeful excitement at the prospect of some free time to read. Her hopes were short lived, though, as Eric continued.

“I want you to go out and see if you can scout up a quick walk-in or two, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure, Eric,” she said, careful to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

“Just be sure to be ready when your next client gets there at 1:30.”

“OK.”

“Great! Love ya, babe!”

She hated going on the stroll. It was scary enough when Eric pre-screened the clients on-line, but it terrified her to pick up strangers on the street. Not as much as facing Eric’s anger terrified her, though, so she slid into the clingy red dress and the knee-high black boots she had worn to work. She checked her hair and make-up one last time, grabbed her hot pink phone clutch, and slid her room key card into the pocket next to her fake ID. Then, she hit “Messages,” Cindy’s number, and her frequently used emoticons.

After one of the other girls had been mugged in an alley off the stroll the month before, Cindy had made up some special icons. One showed a screaming girl by a car; another showed the same screaming girl sitting on a bed, and the third showed a policeman. The idea was that, in case one of the girls had a problem, all she had to do was hit the appropriate emoticon, send it to Cindy, and she would send help. They hadn’t really talked about what would happen if Cindy was working, but Eric didn’t want them texting him. Even though Tatia had not run into trouble yet, she wanted to be as prepared as possible. Satisfied that she had covered all her bases, she snapped the gaudy rhinestone clasp closed, stepped out the door, and began the two-block walk to the area where prostitutes and their clients often connected.

Tatia sauntered casually down the sidewalk with the hip-swaying gait Cindy had taught her, the one that was guaranteed to attract attention. As she walked, she thought about her new book. She often browsed through the shelves at the library when she had time, making notes of books she might want to download. Recently, she had come across Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and was instantly captivated. The cover blurb said it was about a girl who was sold into prostitution as a child but later found redemption in the love of God and the love of a godly man. It sounded like a fairy tale, but Tatia couldn’t resist finding out how the author imagined such a miracle might happen.

She was so deep in thought that she was startled when she heard a pleasant male voice say, “Hey there.”

“Oh,” she said, catching her breath as her hand flew up to her chest. “I didn’t hear you drive up.”

One of the reasons this area was so popular with the trade was that the one-way street allowed the drivers to talk to the girls without having to shout across the car or across an oncoming lane of traffic. Tatia recovered her composure and continued to walk slowly forward while offering the driver what she hoped was an inviting smile. He looked to be in his mid-thirties with sandy brown hair that looked as if he ran his hands through it a lot. He also had friendly eyes that crinkled a little bit at the corners when he returned her smile timidly.

“I’m sorry if I scared you,” he said, allowing the car to drift along beside her. “I thought maybe you were looking for some company. Maybe I made a mistake.”

“No, you’re not wrong. I was feeling kinda lonely, so I thought I’d take a walk.” She walked over to the car and leaned into the window. Cindy had taught her that, too. “What did you have in mind?”

“Ummm, I-I-I,” he stuttered. “I’m kinda new at this.”

He certainly wasn’t like a lot of the guys she saw cruising around, acting tough and trying to look cool. Tatia smiled, thinking he might be one of the not-so-bad ones. “Tell you what. I have a room a couple of blocks over. Do you want to come over and have a drink?”

“Sure,” he said, sounding relieved. “That sounds nice.”

Tatia walked around to the passenger’s side and stepped into the car, making sure the hem of her dress slid up provocatively. She buckled herself in and gave him directions to the motel. She told him where to park, led the way to her door, unlocked it, and invited him in.

“By the way,” she said, closing the door behind them, “my name’s Kaitlyn. I don’t really have anything to offer you to drink except a soda from the machine outside.”

“Hi, Kaitlyn. I’m Kevin. I’m not really thirsty anyway,” he said, looking down at the floor.

Tatia chuckled at his innocence. She sat down on the edge of the bed and crossed her long legs.

“Then what do you want, Kevin?” she asked. Knowing the clock was ticking and Eric was expecting results, she began to make suggestions and quote prices. Suddenly, the person in front of her transformed from a timid, insecure mouse into a strong, confident man on a mission, a man she instinctively knew was a cop.

“Crap!” she said under her breath. Her phone clutch was still in her hand, so she flipped open the clasp, touched the third icon, and hit send. “Eric’s gonna kill me.”

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo: Chapter 17 – CHOICES. Read it here!

Tatia finds out the difference between taking a road trip and being on the circuit – something she would rather not know, especially from experience.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo and will continue through Chapter 20. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 17. Chapter 18 will be posted on Thursday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

CHAPTER 17: CHOICES

Tatia was exhausted when she arrived at the rendezvous point a few minutes before midnight the following night. She hadn’t slept well, and her last day of school had been emotionally draining. The hours dragged as she went through the motions of a normal evening that was anything but normal. When it was finally time to go, all she wanted to do was stretch out on the bed and sleep. Instead, she peeked into the kids’ rooms, blew them silent kisses, and slipped out the window one last time. She walked along an off-road nature trail to avoid running into a late-night patrol car, and she waited in the trees where she wouldn’t be seen by any passing cars. The sounds of the night made her nervous, and she was relieved when the Beemer pulled up shortly after she reached her hiding place.

Zach jumped out as soon as the car came to a stop. “Evenin’, Miss Tatia, I mean Miss Kaitlyn. Eric said I need to use your new name,” he said, wearing a characteristic grin on his face and a pair of wireless headphones around his neck.

Tatia’s shoulders drooped, and she looked back the way she had come. It seemed she was leaving more behind than she had realized. She was leaving what little was left of herself behind and becoming whatever Eric wanted her to be.

“Miss Kaitlyn, we really need to get moving,” said Zach.

“I’m sorry,” she said, handing him her backpack.

He popped the trunk and stowed it among several bags of various descriptions. She was startled to see that her boots and the blue canvas shopping bag that held her work clothes were there.

“Zach,” she said. “You usually leave my work clothes at the motel after you check me in for the night. Why did you bring it with you?”

“I’ll let the girls explain that to you. Right now, Mr. Eric is in a hurry to get on the road.” He opened the back door and closed it behind her once she was seated beside Kaycee and Belinda, two of Eric’s other girls. Eric was in the front passenger seat, isolated from the rest of the passengers by a black satin eyeshade and a pair of wireless headphones. Zach slid into the driver’s seat, positioned his own headphones, and headed for the highway.

“What’s going on?” whispered Tatia. “I was supposed to have two clients tonight.”

Kaycee, a tiny girl with straight black hair and almond shaped eyes, whispered back. “Eric got a tip that the cops were gonna raid several of the motels tonight, so he cancelled all the appointments. We’ve been hanging out at the coffee shop for an hour or so waiting until time to meet you.”

“What about Cindy and the other girls?”

“They’re getting a night off, too, except for Cindy, of course. She’ll spend all night dealing with irate customers and trying to find safe places to set the girls up and get the cash flowing again. Eric hates downtime when he’s not making money. That’s why he’s hibernating. He’s in a really bad mood.”

Tatia was quiet for a few minutes, mulling over what she had just heard. Then she said, almost to herself, “I still don’t understand why Eric brought my work clothes.”

Belinda, who was a few years older than the other two, spoke up in the tone of a senior speaking to an inexperienced freshman. “You haven’t been on a road trip before, have you?”

“No, but Eric said we’d head up to Las Vegas for a little R & R,” said Tatia, a little defensively. “He said we might even do some sight-seeing, like the Grand Canyon or something.”

Belinda put her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. “Honey, the only sights you’ll be seeing are the ceilings of some different motels and maybe the inside of some truck sleepers. We’re not on a road trip – we’re on the circuit.” With that, she closed her eyes, pulled a sweat jacket over her shoulders like a blanket, and leaned her head against the window.

“Don’t let her get to you,” whispered Kaycee, leaning close to Tatia. “She’s just got her panties in a twist because she’s not queen bee anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if you hadn’t noticed, Eric specializes in really young girls. Once you’re past thirteen or fourteen, a lot of our customers don’t want you. Belinda is seventeen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Eric doesn’t trade her to another stable.”

“But what about Cindy? She’s almost twenty.”

“Cindy’s special. I don’t mean like she and Eric are in love or anything, but she was his first girl, so I think he keeps her around for sentimental reasons. She also knows his business better than he does. She keeps track of his clients, the appointments, the girls – all that kind of stuff.”

As it turned out, Belinda was right. When Eric woke up, he plugged his laptop and his wireless card into the accessory plugs and accessed the Internet. Tatia learned later what he was doing.

First, he contacted a nearby motel known to be friendly to the trade where he booked a room for each of them. Then, he went to one of several underground websites that specialize in advertising the services of prostitutes on the move. He posted the ages and vital stats of the girls along with their availability, and within an hour, they were all booked for four solid hours – three to four clients an hour. After their work was done, the girls had time for a shower and a few hours sleep before they grabbed a quick breakfast and hit the road again.

The next two nights they didn’t bother with a motel. Instead, Eric put out the word that they would be at a well-known truck stop around midnight. Again, all three girls were busy for several hours, moving in the shadows at the back of the parking lot from one truck to another. The nights at the truck stops were the worst, because they slept in the car while they traveled to the next destination. Eric wouldn’t even allow them to shower in the truck stops because of the cops that often dropped in for coffee and a bite to eat. On those nights, the smell of sweat, unwashed bodies, and stale cigarette smoke clung to all of them and kept Tatia awake until she finally passed out from exhaustion.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, after leaving another truck stop behind, Tatia was sitting in a cloud of second-hand smoke, wondering how long it took to develop lung problems. When Kaycee offered her a cigarette, she accepted it out of boredom and self defense. It made her cough, and she hated the way it tasted, but it gave her something to do. Kaycee and Belinda agreed that she looked more sophisticated and a bit sexy when she smoked, so at the next stop, she bought a pack of her own along with a disposable lighter.

Later in the morning, they finally drove into Las Vegas. The girls gawked and oohed and aahed as they rolled slowly past one glitzy hotel after another, but Eric told Zach to keep driving. Finally, he directed the driver into the parking lot of a motel that was off the Strip. It was far from five stars but was still better than many they had seen. While Zach went in to register and get room keys, Eric turned toward the back seat.

“Okay, time for a little break. It’s 9:00 now. Go take a shower and get some rest. Meet me back here at 3:00 this afternoon, and we’ll go on a little outing. Dress casual.”

The girls each had a separate room, so they knew they’d be entertaining clients later, but they were too tired to care. Tatia took a hot shower and crawled into bed with her hair still wet. She set the alarm on her cell phone and immediately fell into a restless sleep – and a new nightmare.

She fought to free herself from the arms that grasped her, crying out silently for Mama. Mama didn’t come, though. She was lying in a box with Daddy, both of them cold and lifeless, staring up at her with painted faces that melted into a pile of ashes while Eric grabbed at her, pulling her through the door of a shabby motel room filled with men waiting in line beside a bed covered with dirty, rumpled sheets. They chanted her name again and again as she struggled toward a persistent ringing sound just outside the door.

The fog of sleep thinned slightly – enough for Tatia to realize the ringing was her alarm and that the restraint she felt was from the sheets that were tangled around her and not Eric’s arms. She groped for her phone and raised one eyelid far enough to peek at the time. She groaned when she saw that it was already 2:30. Still exhausted, her body aching from the abuse she had endured the last three nights, she wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and sink into the oblivion of sleep. She feared the nightmares that waited there, though, and she feared Eric’s anger if she didn’t show up as ordered, so she dragged herself out of the snarled bedclothes and headed for the bathroom.

At two minutes before 3:00, Tatia trudged across the parking lot toward Belinda and Kaycee who looked somewhat refreshed as they leaned against the car, chatting and waiting for Eric to arrive. They fell silent as they saw Tatia, and Belinda eyed her with a sneer.

“Hey, girl! You look like something I scooped out of my cat’s litter box. You having trouble keeping up the pace?”

Kaycee shushed her quietly. “Hush, Belinda. You know Eric doesn’t like it when you rag on the other girls. Besides, Tatia’s not an old pro like you.”

Belinda scowled at her emphasis on the word “old,” but Kaycee ignored her and turned her attention to Tatia. “What’s the matter, girlfriend? Didn’t you get any sleep?”

“Not so much,” she said, stifling a yawn. “Too many dreams.”

“If Cindy were here, she could fix that,” said Belinda with a raised eyebrow.

“Right,” said Kaycee, “and then she’d need something to wake up, and on and on.”

“Don’t be so self-righteous. I’ve seen you pop a few uppers and downers in your time.”

Before the conversation turned into a real scrap, Eric and Zach showed up and jumped into the car. The two girls glared at each other as they slid into the back seat, and Tatia followed silently, ignoring them both and leaning her head against the window.

Eric directed Zach to a nearby shopping mall – not one of the fancy ones for tourists but one that looked as if it was frequented by the locals. When Zach had parked, Eric pulled out his money clip and gave each one of them, including Zach, two hundred dollars.

“You’ve worked hard. I have a meeting, so go have some fun. You, too, Zach. I’ll drive myself. Stay together or split up, whatever you want. Just be back at this entrance at 6:00 pm. We’ll go have some dinner before we go back to the motel. Don’t make me wait – we’re booked solid tonight.”

Belinda and Kaycee, drawn back together by the prospect of spending money, immediately began planning new outfits. Kaycee asked Tatia if she wanted to come with them, but she shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’m going to look for a bookstore.”

Nobody asked Zach, but he walked beside Tatia as she headed for the entrance. “I don’t care much for clothes, so I think I’ll tag along with you if that’s okay.”

“Sure, Zach,” she said, brightening up a little. “I’d enjoy the company.”

“So you like to read, huh?” he asked.

“Yes, I usually take a book or two everywhere I go. But when Eric told me about this trip, I didn’t realize we’d be spending so much time in the car and, well, indoors. I didn’t bring anything to read, and I don’t sleep very well in the car, so there’s nothing to do but smoke – and I don’t like cigarettes much.”

“Yeah,” he laughed. “Reading is much better for your health.” They walked in silence for a few minutes, looking in the windows and watching the other shoppers. Then, Zach broke the silence. “Hey, I have an idea. Have you ever used one of those e-readers?”

“No, I haven’t, but that’s a great idea.”

“I think some of them even light up so you can read in the dark.”

She was energized, now that she had a goal. They found a map of the mall and located an electronics store one floor up and a few stores down on the right. She found a helpful salesman, and while he was showing her the options, Zach entertained himself by testing out all the latest headphones. She settled for a simple backlit reader so she would have as much left over as possible for e-books. The salesman helped her buy a couple of books and then helped her set up a gift card online with her extra money. All she had to do when she finished the books she had was choose another title.

When she was finished, she found Zach comparing the pictures on a line of TVs. “I’m all set and ready to read,” she said holding up her bag. “We have over an hour left. Now we need to spend your money.”

“No,” he said, suddenly seeming a little shy. “I’m saving for an engagement ring. With what Eric gave me today, I’m almost there.”

“Well congratulations,” said Tatia. “She’s a very lucky lady.”

“No, I’m the lucky one,” he said.

“So, how about the food court. I know Eric said we were going to dinner, but spending money makes me hungry.”

“Sounds good. I could use a snack.”

They found the food court without too much trouble, and he bought a slice of pepperoni while she ordered a cup of non-fat strawberry frozen yogurt. While they ate, they chatted about books they had read and places they would like to travel. When they finished, they disposed of their trash and strolled toward the entrance, as comfortable in each other’s company as if they had known each other forever.

They reached the parking lot before any of the others, so they found a bench and sat down. She reached in her purse, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and offered him one.

“No, thanks. I don’t smoke,” he said.

“But you have a pack right there in your shirt pocket.”

“Yes, I do, but have you ever seen me smoke one?”

She thought for a moment before answering. “Now that you mention it, no I haven’t.”

“I carry them because Eric expects me to have them in case he runs out. I don’t like the taste of them, and I don’t like how I smell after I’ve smoked them.”

“Yeah, me too. In fact, I had never smoked until this trip, but Belinda and Kaycee said I look good smoking.”

“Tatia, you’re a beautiful young lady, and you look good regardless of what you’re doing. But I personally don’t find a smoking woman particularly attractive.”

Tatia’s cheeks colored at the unexpected compliment. “Thanks for the kind words and the good advice.” She looked at the cigarettes and put them back in her purse. “You’re right, of course. I don’t seem to have much choice about what I do for a living, but I have decided not to drink or do drugs. I guess I can do without this vice, too. Maybe I’ll keep these just in case Eric runs out.”

They laughed as Belinda and Kaycee ran up behind them, giggling breathlessly, and Eric screeched to a stop in front of them and beeped the horn.

“Well,” said Zach, standing up. “Duty calls.”

“Yeah,” Tatia sighed. “No rest for the wicked.”

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 |Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 |Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo: Chapter 16 – PREPARATIONS. Read it here!

Tatia shares Josie’s suspicions with Eric, and he suggests a road trip and a complete break from her old life. What lies ahead for her on that road?

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 16. Chapter 17 will be posted on Sunday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size

CHAPTER 16: PREPARATIONS

Tatia was a little disappointed to see the Beemer parked at the library and the driver, Zach, leaning against the back door, but she had learned to limit her expectations. “Afternoon, Miss Tatia,” he said. “How was school?”

She held out her hand and waggled it back and forth.

He laughed. “That good, huh?”

“Yeah,” she said as he opened the door. She smiled when she saw Eric sitting inside holding out a large decaf mocha. “But I think it just got better.”

She slid in as the door closed, dropped her backpack on the floor, fastened her seat belt, and took the cup from Eric. “Thanks, I needed this!” She took a sip and settled back contentedly in her seat. She was learning to enjoy the simple things.

Zach started the engine and looked at Eric in the rear-view mirror. “Where to, Boss?”

“Just drive around – and put on your headphones.”

“You got it,” Zach answered with a grin. He slipped on a pair of wireless headphones and cranked up the music so loud that Tatia could hear the bass line in the back seat.

“Trouble at home, huh?” asked Eric.

“Trouble everywhere,” she said, and she explained what was going on.

“Hmmm,” he said when she had finished. “I hadn’t planned on doing this for another few months, but it may be time for a road trip.”

“A road trip? You’re not going to leave me here to handle this all by myself, are you?”

“Now, would I do that to my best girl?” he said, leaning over and kissing her lightly. “No, I’m thinking you and me – and maybe two or three of the other girls – might head up to Las Vegas for a little R & R. How does that sound?”

“It sounds like fun, but won’t things just be worse when we get back?”

“They’ll be a lot different, but I don’t think they’ll be worse,” he explained. “I’m talking about making a complete break – leaving Josie and school and all that kid stuff behind.”

“I don’t know, Eric. Being a runaway is not a good thing when you’re a foster kid.”

“But you’re not a kid anymore,” he said, holding her face gently in his hand. “You’re Kaitlyn Golden, nineteen-year-old woman of the world. I mean, have you ever traveled, ever been anywhere outside of Texas?”

“No,” she admitted. “It would be fun to see a little bit of the world. Do you think we could see the Grand Canyon?”

“I don’t see why not!”

“Well, if we’re going to do this, it needs to be soon. Report cards are due next week, and then it’s gonna hit the fan.”

“Okay. You have a couple of clients tomorrow night. Just slip a few extra changes of clothes into your backpack, and you just don’t go home.”

Tatia drew in a shaky breath and blew it out. “Okay. Let’s do it!”

Eric slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her as close as he could without strangling her with her shoulder harness. “That’s my girl!” he said, giving her a squeeze. Always ready for adventure, right?”

She laid her head on his shoulder, enjoying the momentary tenderness in spite a nagging feeling that this might be more of a disaster than an adventure. His attention was short-lived, though, and after a minute, he released her dismissively and said, “Well, babe, I gotta get back to work.” He leaned up and tapped Zach on the shoulder. Zach lifted up his headphone on one side and turned his head toward Eric without taking his eyes off the road.

“Drop Tatia at the usual spot, then head back into Cameron.”

Zach nodded and dropped the headphone back into place.

Tatia finished her mocha while Eric focused on his phone. When the car stopped, she hopped out before Zach had time to come around and open the door. “Bye, Eric. See you tomorrow night.”

“Sure, babe,” he said absently. “I’ll send the car at the usual time.”

She picked up her backpack and trudged home, wondering how big a mistake she was making. She knew that after tomorrow night she would be basically homeless, sharing an apartment with several of the other girls, depending on the good will of the man who had stolen what was left of her childhood. Still, sometimes he was totally loving and generous, more than anyone since her mother and father. As long as she did what he told her, she would be fine – at least that’s what she told herself.

Tatia arrived home well before dinner, much to Josie’s surprise. She worked hard, catching up on the cleaning and laundry she had neglected recently. While she waited for the dryer to finish, she helped Josie with dinner, and afterward, she helped the younger kids with their baths, read them a story, and put them to bed. When all the clothes were folded and put away, she went to say goodnight to Josie.

“It’s good to have the old Tatia back,” said Josie as she gave Tatia an awkward hug. “I hated to come down on you like that this morning, but sometimes all of us need a little wake-up call.”

“Yeah,” said Tatia. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a pain.”

Josie smiled. “I understand. Sleep well, and if you don’t, come wake me and we’ll have some hot chocolate or something.”

“Thanks. Good night,” Tatia said, knowing Josie really didn’t understand. No one did. She also knew how Josie was if she was awakened in the middle of the night. She’d rather deal with the nightmares.

She went into her room and closed the door. She sat down on the bed and looked around, taking a mental inventory of her possessions. After tomorrow night, everything she owned would fit in her backpack – along with the small collection of “work clothes” that Cindy kept in her apartment. She would leave everything else behind and hope that Josie would pass on anything worth saving to the younger girls.

She began to sort through her clothes, putting the ones she would take into a single drawer. She looked through her small collection of stuffed animals and decided to leave them all behind with her childhood. She had few other toys – two dolls and a few games, none of which she would need where she was going. Finally, she sat down at her tiny desk and went through the drawers. She took out the spiral notebook she had used as a journal since Ms. Dunham had suggested it the year before along with the pink gel pen Eric had give her a lifetime ago. She also grabbed a blank spiral and a couple of extra pens. She was about to close the drawer when she caught sight of the box that held her keepsakes from camp.

She carried the box to the bed where she spent the next half hour reliving what she was sure would be the last happy time of her life. She reread all the notes from her counselor and from camp aunts, uncles, and grandparents. She admired the bookmark she had made and the key chain she had woven. She spent most of her time looking through the photo album her counselor had put together using the many pictures the camp photographers had snapped during the week. Tears began to run down her face and drip off her chin when she looked at the picture of herself dressed in her business outfit, trying to imagine what it would be like to be a famous lawyer on her way to the trial of the century. She closed the album, not wanting to be reminded of how far she was from that dream.

She put the album back in the box with the intention of leaving it behind with all the memories. Then her hand brushed against something hard, and she saw the smooth rock with the word “Strength” painted on it. She smiled through the tears as she remembered Mrs. G’s words when she gave it to her – “I see strength in you.” – the same words the Ink Guy has said to her. She picked up the stone and saw Mrs. G’s card underneath. She remembered Mrs. G telling her that she could call any time she was in trouble. This certainly qualified, but she doubted that even Mrs. G could solve this problem. Still, there was something inside her that said there was still hope, and she realized she wasn’t ready to cut all ties to her past. Instead of putting it back in the desk, she put the box in the drawer with the clothes she planned to take.

All she had left to pack were her toiletries which she would put in at the last minute, so she was as ready as she could be. She took a quick shower and crawled into bed, wondering where she would sleep the following night.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital  for $.99 or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 |Chapter 2 | Chapter 3| Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6| Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 |Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15

Blessings,

Linda

Quote from Tatia’s Tattoo | by Linda Brendle

The crowdfunding campaign for Tatia’s Tattoo will launch Thursday, March 23. Tatia’s Tattoo is Christian fiction about the horror of human trafficking in small-town America.

Daddy ran over a bomb

#TattiasTattoo  #Sample Chapters  https://goo.gl/mQA5Yx

Blessings,

Linda

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