By Skye Johnson
I drove down 52nd street trying to find a place to park in this sleepless city. Hopping out of my old 2003 BMW sedan, I tightened my coat
and quickly walked to the door of the restaurant, escaping the bitter winter. 21 Club was my favorite restaurant when I had the money for it. I could
almost taste the mouth watering food when I walked in.
“A table for two please. My friend will be here shortly,” I told the waitress.
“Of course, right this way.”
I followed the lady, sat down and took off my coat. I stared at the door waiting for her to walk in. I haven’t seen her for years. Last time we saw each other it was the summer of high-school graduation. We’ve been in touch all these years, but haven’t seen each other since. I glanced up from the menu, and saw her. Vanessa was wearing a long black coat that almost exactly matched her hair. She looked around, saw me and smiled. Long lost friends finally meeting again. Like always, her skin was tan, her nails painted navy blue, and her contagious smile. We were always smiling when we were together.
“Piper!” Nessa said as she rushed over to give me a hug. Hugging her, I had flashbacks of all of our crazy, exciting, and daring memories
throughout our teen years.
“Nessa, I can’t believe it! You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.” We unlocked from our hug, and she slipped off her black coat. She was wearing a gray dress, which reminded were total opposites on the outside. I was pale, blue eyes, dirty blonde hair, and had freckles all over.
Nessa was tan, with dark hair and dark eyes. We shared similar tastes in clothes, and we thought alike. We were almost the same person on the inside.
We shared the same ideas and always knew what the other was thinking and feeling. It almost felt like nothing changed since high school.
“So what’s been going on? How are things, and what have you been up to?” I asked, curious about her life after high-school.
“It’s been rough, not going to lie.” She looked down, avoiding eye contact as if she was embarrassed. I’ve never seen her like this. She was usually outgoing, confusing me. “Living here, it’s been hard keeping up with the bills and all these stupid payments. I’m struggling, but hanging on,” she said hopefully.
I gave her a reassuring smile and said, “I’m here for you, like I was in high school. We got through so many things together and there’s more
The waitress came over and asked us what we would like to drink.
Nessa said, “I would love a—” but then her phone vibrated on the table, scrunching the tablecloth up. She read the text, and her face dropped.
Nessa looked up with scared eyes. I turned to the waitress.
“Could you give us a few more minutes?”
“Of course, I’ll be back shortly,” she said as she walked away.
I looked at Nessa and said, “Whats wrong? Did something happen? Are you—”
“We need to leave.”
“What do you mean? We just got here.”
“P, I’m so sorry but we need to leave. Now.” She grabbed her jacket and quickly headed towards the door.
I got up and followed. We went outside, and she asked nervously, “Do you have a car?”
“Yeah, right around the cor—”
She ran around the street corner, bumping into people in her way. I caught up and we jumped in the car. I was terrified. What was going on? I didn’t ask any questions and just turned on the car and drove away as fast as I could. I looked at her, and she was gritting her teeth and staring at the rear view mirror.
“Nessa, you need to tell me whats going on. If you’re in trouble, we need to get help.”
“P, you need to trust me,” she said fast. “See that black Lincoln behind us? Just get away from it.”
I looked at the mirror, saw it, cut off some cars and swerved onto the next road. Checked the rear mirror again and saw it a little farther behind us. I yanked the wheel to the right and zoomed through this ally way connecting to another street. My apartment was where I was headed.
I drove down 40th street, looked around for the car. I couldn’t see it. I headed down the parking garage and slammed on the breaks to a complete halt. We bounced out of my car. I threw the keys to the valet and ran towards the stairs.
We got to my apartment. Quickly I locked the door, panting. I turned to Nessa.
“Vanessa. What. Is. Going. On.”
“I owe money,” she said.
“To who?!” I yelled. “Thugs? Dealers? This is insane you need to leave. They are gonna find you here.”
“Listen, my friend from college said he knew a guy that could lend me money. I got his number and he loaned me $50,000.”
“$50,000. Why would you need that much money?
“I got into some trouble in college. I needed money to pay the guy to keep me out of it and not to give anyone my name. My mother is in jail. You know I don’t have a dad. James is still in high-school and I’m his legal guardian. I can’t get arrested, he needs me. If I get caught, I swear—”
“Nessa stop. You can’t do this by yourself. I’m here for you. How much money do you have now? I’ll help you pay the rest and you can work for me in my boutique till you can pay me back.”
“I have about $20,000 saved up. I sold everything I could but still couldn’t gather up enough,” her voice was shaky. “But that’s not the only problem. I’ve been running from these guys for months. Who knows what they will do to me. I’m so scared, P, I don’t know what to do.”
Four hard knocks on the door startled both of us.
“Bathroom,” I said to Nessa quietly. She got up and darted there fast. I looked through the peep hole, but they were covering it. I kept the chain on the door and opened it slowly.
“Hello?” I said, trying to act confused.
“Do you know who this girl is?” The husky man said in a stern voice.
He held up a picture, probably from college, of Nessa. I took the paper out of his hands and the top read NYPD Top Wanted List. My whole body felt weak. I stopped breathing. Trying to hide the fear, I said, “I’m sorry sir, she doesn’t look familiar.” I gave the paper back trying not to shake.
“If you see her, or hear about her whereabouts, call me.” He opened his wallet, revealing a police badge and a notepad. He scribbled his number, handed it to me, and left. I took the paper and put it in my jacket pocket safely. Closing the door, my body grew cold. Nessa was wanted. I didn’t tell her to come out of the bathroom yet. I needed to regain my thoughts. What did she do in college to get herself into this? I took a deep breath.
“He’s gone,” I said, waiting for her to come out.
She opened the bathroom door slowly. I heard her footsteps from the hallway. She came around the corner, mascara running down her face and her lipstick smeared. She brushed away her hair and wiped her eyes.
“I can trust you right?” Nessa said quivering.
My heart grew heavy. We would say that every time before one of us told the other something serious. But this was different. This wasn’t high school. Usually we would ask each other for advice. This was serious. I thought I knew who she was. I thought she hadn’t changed. What did I get myself into?