High School Soap Opera
I’m back home like nothing has changed. It’s Friday, and I’m home from school pretending to be sick. The phone is ringing and I reach over to my night table and pick it up. “Hello?” I ask. i hear my mother’s voice and it makes me cry. It feels like it’s been so long since she left for work, and it’s such a relief that I’m not in that damned fridge.
“Is everything okay, sweetie?” she asks. “Why are you crying, what’s wrong?” At first I want to tell her everything that happened, from somehow joining Candace and Adaire’s conversation in the bar to my abduction. But I don’t want to think about it yet. When you talk about your dreams, you remember them better. And if there is any hope of me forgetting this one, I can’t talk about it. Not now, and maybe not ever.
“Nothing, I just had a bad dream. It’s over now.” I pinch myself, and I can feel it. I am so glad to be home. “How long until you come home?” I’m like a child, needing my mommy just because I had a nightmare. Grow up, Jenna.
“Do you need me to leave work? I can be there in ten minutes.” I want to say no, I don’t need her to miss work because of me. But I do need her. I need her to hold me and tell me it’s all over, that everything is going to be fine. It’s Friday, she can’t have that much to do at work, right?
“It was so scary, I don’t want it to happen.” I never realized how scary soap operas could be if they were real. Everything is overly dramatic, and the panic always seems over-the-top. But when I was locked in that room, tied up the way I was, I didn’t think I would ever get out. I didn’t know how I got into the soap opera to begin with, but now that I’m out, I will never again doubt the fear and terror that the characters feel in life-threatening situations.
“You can tell me all about it when I get home, okay?” she asks. “Let me just go tell my boss that I need to leave, and then I’ll come home. Do you want me to pick up ice cream on the way?”
“No,” I say, and I sniffle. “Just come home.” I hang up the phone reluctantly, not wanting to say good-bye but knowing that if she’s on the phone with me then she’s not on her way here. I need to make contact with the world, to know that it’s still there where I left it. I look for my cell phone, but it’s not on the night table. I look over to my charger but it’s not there either. What did I do with it?
I walk around the house looking for it, but I can’t find it anywhere. Maybe it’s been in my pocket the whole time? I reach for my pocket, but it’s not there. I have a little headache, so I go to the bathroom to get some acetaminophen from the medicine cabinet, but I stop when I see myself in the mirror. I look like I’ve been through hell, and the side of my head has a lot of dried blood. I reach up to check how bad it is, and my hands move together, handcuffed together.
I scream and sit up, my heart pounding, and try to catch my breath. I’m still in the walk-in fridge; being home was the dream. I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep, have I been locked in here a day? A week? Longer? I look down at my wrists. There are red marks all around from my struggling against the handcuffs, and some places where they dug in and cut my wrists. I think of the stories I’ve heard about girls slitting their wrists, and a new fear takes over. Could I die from handcuffs digging into my wrists, if I start bleeding really badly? I don’t want to think about it.
“Stop it!” I yell at myself. Maybe a pep talk will work. “Get a grip! You didn’t think you could save yourself, but you’ve already managed to get yourself out of the rope restraint. You can do this, just focus.” There. I feel a little bit better already.
I need to prioritize. I have to get out of here, but that will be a lot easier without handcuffs on. I try to slide my wrists through, but my hands are too big for that. Obviously I’m not going to chew through my wrist, so I have to try to find a way to pick the lock. But how? There’s nothing here but boxes of rotten food.
I’m trying to figure out what else I could try when my gaze falls on the desk chair. Maybe I can take the chair apart and find something useful. Since I’m not tied up, it’s not hard to untie the chair. It’s not bolted to the floor, so I move it away from the mess on the floor and turn it on its side. I have no way to unscrew anything, or take anything apart. What made me think I could do this? Right. The fact that I got free from the rope. I just have to keep looking, and hopefully I’ll stumble on a solution. This would probably be a lot easier if I had a bobby pin or a paper clip. You see that in movies all the time, where someone gets out of handcuffs with a pin or clip. Not that I would know the first place to start even if I did have something like that.
I walk around the fridge, scrutinizing every inch of my prison, but there is nothing remotely pin-like. When I get back to the door, I stand there in frustration and move my wrists around, fists clenched, and try to hold back the tears. Something gets stuck, and I bring the cuffs up to my face to take a closer look. I may not be able to pick the lock, but maybe I can break the chain? I try to pull my hands apart but the chain doesn’t break, and the cuffs cut into my wrists.
Sometimes, I remind myself, the damsel has to rescue herself. Isn’t that what I was supposed to learn from movies like Mulan? I keep working on the handcuffs. Nobody knows I’m here, so I can’t just wait to be saved. I have the chain twisted around itself and it seems to be locked. My wrists are together, and the chain is centered between them. I put my hands out in front of me, and pray that it works, then pull my hands toward my stomach in one quick motion, pushing my elbows out to the side at the same time.
It worked! I can’t believe it! I still have the cuffs on, but the chain is broken and I can move my arms freely. I feel a bit invincible right now, even though I still have to figure out how to get out of a walk-in fridge that is locked from the outside.
I go back to the desk chair. The swivel top isn’t bolted to anything, and I am able to twist it until the seat and seat back come apart from the rest. The middle part of the chair sticks up without the seat, and I wonder if I could use it as a battering ram. I pick it up, and it’s not too heavy. I hold it sideways and run at the door, which doesn’t give at all. I am pushed back and the bottom of the chair goes flying out of my hands. There goes that idea.
I look up, vexed, and see something I hadn’t noticed before. It looks like an air vent. That must be where the cold air would be coming in, if the circuitry wasn’t broken. I wonder if I could open the vent if I push hard enough. It’s too high for me to reach. The desk chair might work, but it’s on wheels. I pick up the bottom part and lift it above my head. The pole part that usually holds up the seat hits the vent. I don’t have a lot of energy left, and not having edible food or water means I won’t be getting any stronger. I push the chair up and keep hitting the vent. I discover that if I push the sides, the screws in the corner start loosening themselves.
I’m going to have to get myself up there somehow. I get the top of the chair and put it on the bottom, then turn it around and around all the way until it’s tight. I push it underneath the vent and try to climb on it, but of course the chair rolls away. I’ll have to use the rope to tie it up like John had done. It takes me a while, but the rope was wrapped around me so much that it’s actually long enough. I tie one end of the rope around the pole of a stationary shelving unit on one side of the fridge, then wrap it around the chair, pulling it taut. I take the rest of the length of the rope to tie it to a shelving unit on the other side of the fridge. I’ve never been a girl scout, so I just tie a bunch of knots and hope they will hold.
I go to the chair and try to move it. It seems pretty stable. I make sure the top is still tight, then carefully stand up, with my arms out to the side to steady me. The chair is not moving, and the rope is holding. I reach up to the air vent. There are four screws, one in each corner, and the first one I try is loose enough that I can unscrew it the rest of the way. The next one comes out just as easily. My wrists hurt, but the will to survive is stronger than the pain, and I use one of the cuffs as a hammer. I hit the side of the vent and I hit the screw. Eventually the screw comes loose and I remove it. The last corner is still attached, but I twist the vent cover around, pivoting on that corner, until the vent is open.
One again, I wonder how long I’ve been here. How long in real time? How many days in soap opera time? I would have been asleep for a day, getting out of the rope would have taken a day, getting out of the handcuffs one day, figuring out and opening the vent might be a day or two… Is this already a week in soap opera time? What is going on with Nick and Jack?
I reach up into the vent. It feels like the air ducts that people crawl in on TV and movies. I grab a hold of it, and carefully put one foot on the arm of the chair. It starts to twist for a second and I panic, but then it stops. I put my other foot on the other arm, pulling myself up as much as I can. I keep using my own arms to pull myself up, stepping on the top of the chair back. By now my head and upper body are in the vent enough for me to see that I’m not going to be able to see anything. But I have no choice. Staying in the fridge is death, nobody is coming for me.
I take a few deep breaths, gather my strength, and hoist myself up the rest of the way, crawling forward like a marine through mud. There is very little space, and I have to keep my head and body low because there’s just nowhere else to go. I inch forward slowly. It would be so easy to fall asleep right now, and I wonder how much oxygen I have left. It might be enough to keep me going after a nap, but it might not be. In fact, I’m probably feeling this tired because the carbon dioxide level is too high. I have to fight through this.
I keep going, but it just gets harder. I don’t know how far I’ve gone, or how much further I need to go, but I start to smell smoke. I hope I’m going the right way. I think about how John took Ambrosia’s phone from my pocket. If he thinks that’s the only evidence I have, then he might not be worried about my escape. He’s probably trying to help Olivia through this terrible time, telling her lies so she’ll keep thinking that Nick killed her best friend. There’s no way she’ll go back to him after that, unless John is brought to justice.
I finally see a light straight ahead. It’s far, and I have to keep crawling but at least I am starting to breath easier. There must be another vent, and fresh oxygen at last. As tired as I am, I know I’m almost free. The closer I get to the light, the stronger I feel. It’s another vent, though, which means I have to get through it somehow. If there was any way to turn around and try to kick my way out I would, but that would mean going back to the walk-in fridge and that’s out of the question.
I reach the vent, and I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s Serenity’s office, and it’s empty. John isn’t there waiting for me. He probably thinks I’m dead by now anyway. The way he kept calling me “little girl,” I know he greatly underestimated me. I try to push the vent, knowing it won’t budge, but to my surprise it falls to the floor. The smoke must have weakened the walls. I look down. Aside from the vent cover, all that’s below is the concrete floor. And it’s a significant drop. But I haven’t come this far to give up now.
I pull myself out slowly. The blood rushing to my head, since it’s lower than my heart, makes it pound again, but I keep going. When my arms are out and I’ve pushed myself out as far as I can, I use my legs to keep me going slowly. And then I’m out and I fall to the ground. My shoulder hits the vent cover and I scream out in pain. I might have just seriously injured it, but at least I’m out.
I push through the pain in my shoulder, my head, and my wrists and stand up. I lean back against the wall, a little dizzy. After a minute, I go over to the desk and pick up the phone, but there’s no dial tone. The cord has been cut. I stumble to the door and try to open it, but it’s locked from the outside. Are you fucking kidding me?
I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One