CAGED

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SLOW DOWN

“April, hey um, it’s Stefen. I know you and Melody went out for a run today, but I haven’t heard from her. Did she tell you if she was going anywhere else?”

“Hi Stefen, no, we left the park around 5:45 I think. She said she was going home and didn’t mention going anywhere else. You haven’t heard from her at all?” Melody’s longtime friend replied. It was getting late and for Melody to not respond to any of my text messages or calls, just wasn’t like her. Where could she be? I wondered. I scratched my head while pacing the floor and thinking that maybe she had stopped by the store, but unlikely, she’d never go shopping in her running gear.

“Ok, if you hear from her make sure and tell her that I’m worried about her and to call me.” I replied in a frustrated tone, and then hung up my cell. Looking at my digital clock again, it read 10:05…..10:07…….10:15……

Something isn’t right. Melody would always call me after she got home from one of her runs, from work, or she would come and stay with me at my apartment, or our apartment, is how I like to think of it. I grabbed my keys off of the dresser and decided to drive over to her place and see if maybe she had fallen asleep. I was hopeful that she was safely tucked in her bed resting. Melody lived only 7 miles away from me and it takes about 15 minutes to get there, but this drive felt like an eternity.

“Com-on!” I yelled tapping my horn out of annoyance. I was getting irritated by the driver in front of me, so I crossed over the double yellow line and sped passed them. While my heart was racing and sweat formed on my forehead I still tried to think positive. I told myself that Melody was safe and there is a logical explanation to why she hadn’t called or responded to any of my messages. Maybe she went home to take a nap. She has been working at the supermarket every day and staying up late to study for her final exam in her programming class, not to mention the late nights that we spend together. I was concentrating on coming up with a rational explanation, when I should have been focusing my attention on the road. I was traveling around 60MPH when I looked into my rearview mirror to see flashing blue and red lights and a brash siren ringing its death bell coming up close behind me.

“SHIT!” I yelled out, pounding the palm of my hand against the steering wheel.

I slowed down, and came to a stop on the side the road only a mile two from Melody’s street.

While I watched through my rearview mirror, I could see a cop step out and slowly walk up to my driver side window. She rested her right hand on top of her side firearm, and her left hand clutched her belt buckle. I was visibly angered by getting pulled over, but calmly I scratched the top of my head and rolled down my window.

“Do you know why I pulled you over son?” The female officer asked. She seemed to be in her late 40’s, with a dark skin complexion and a high-pitched voice, reminding me of a cartoon characters voice. I didn’t have time for this bullshit, I needed to get to Melody’s place, and make sure that she was okay. I was pissed off and hated this cop for stopping me. Out of anger I thrusted my head back against the headrest and gritted my teeth. My nostrils began to flare in and out, from my efforts of keeping calm.

“Look!” I growled at her, while trying to keep my voice composed and steady. “My girlfriend” I paused. “I think she might be missing and I’m driving to her apartment now to see if she’s there. I’m sorry that I was speeding, I’m just really worried about her.” My voice grew louder while trying to explain my reasoning, and hoping that she would get back into her car and let me go on my way.

“You were well above the speed limit, and if I were to charge you, it would be for reckless driving. Do you understand?” She said as she stooped lower, looking at the back seat of my Toyota. Then she asked “Have you been drinking alcohol tonight sir?”

I kept my cool as I answered her question, and I didn’t care whether or not she wrote me a ticket, all I needed was to get to Melody. I replied “No ma’am I haven’t been drinking, like I said, I haven’t heard from my girlfriend and I’m on my way to check on her. I’m worried ma’am.”

“If you have a missing persons report, you need to go to the police station and file one and not drive over the speed limit and put yourself and others in danger.” She responded. “I’m going to let you off with a warning. SLOW IT DOWN SON.” She said placing her hand on top of my door frame staring into my eyes. She looked sympathetic to my concern over Melody. “I hope everything is alright with your girlfriend.” Then as slowly as she approached my car, she did the same returning to her own. I waited for her to drive away before I did, which felt like an eternity. While I waited I picked up my cell phone and dialed Melody’s number again.

“Hey, guys you just missed me. Sorry. Leave me a message okay? I’ll call ya back. Thanks, Byeee!”

Voice mail again. “What the hell?” I said out loud and struck the steering wheel with the palm of my hand. Then shifting my car into drive, I pulled back on to the main road and continued towards Mel’s apartment. I could just barely see the rear lights of the officers’ squad car, and I was thankful for her kindness, so I drove more cautiously and arrived at Melody’s place just minutes later. The outside lights on the side of the building lit up the parking lot like an airport runway, but there was no sign of her Honda anywhere. I quickly got out of my car and slammed the door, then I ran to the side walk and up the stairs to the black metal door with the number 101 above the peep hole. I knocked first, then used my key to let myself inside.

“Mel, MEL!” I yelled while flicking on the table light. Inside of the small living room, everything looked, as usual, nothing out of the ordinary caught my attention and everything was in its place. Neat and organized Melody as always, I thought. I walked to the back of the apartment and into her bedroom. Her bed was made up perfectly with the corners tucked underneath of the mattress, her white square pillows were impeccably placed at the wooden head board, even the small stuffed teddy bear that I had won for her, at last years Carnival was flawlessly placed in the center of her full-sized bed. I growled in frustration and started to replay our last conversation over in my head…

It was early, around 7:15 this morning. Melody had called me just before she left for work, and was excited about her weekly run with April this afternoon. Her voice was cheerful and I could hear her smiling through the phone. Melody has always been a morning person.

“Good morning baby!” She said after my hello. “How did you sleep last night?”

I felt my body temperature rise and my hands shake, as I struggled to remember every word we’d said to each other. I lifted my hand to scratch my already throbbing head then wiped the sweat that was covering my forehead. I took in a deep breath and could smell the scent of her perfume that still lingered in the air. Viktor & Rolf. A birthday gift from me last year. The scent of roses and jasmine consumed me while a lump formed inside my throat.

RING….

My cell phone was still clutched in my hand when it rang out loudly and caught me off guard. I jumped at the sound, then dropped it onto the floor. With shaky hands fumbled picking it back up. Convinced that it was Melody, I never looked to see who was calling, instead, I swiped my thumb to the right on the screen, and blurted out

“Mel! Honey where are you, I’m at your apartment.”

“Stefen, Stefen! It’s me April, and by the sound of that, I’m guessing that you haven’t found or heard from Melody?” Oh my Gosh! Where could she be?” April said.

I suddenly felt like a knife had just cut my beating heart out of my chest when I answered.

“No April, there are no signs of her.”

“I’m going to the police station now. NOW Stefen, right now”! April screamed out.

I could hear the panicked sound in her voice turn into a tremble as April began sobbing. She loves Melody and cares about her as much as I do. While still keeping my focus on any clues that could tell me where she might have gone, or what could have happened, I stood up and replied, “Okay April I will come pick you up, see you in a few” then pressed the end button on my cell phone and left.

It was starting to rain while I drove to April’s apartment complex, and the pitter-patter sound on my car windshield created a calm, peaceful and tranquil moment. I pondered over what had evolved over the last few hours and prayed that my beloved Melody was safe but unable to shake the eerie feeling that this was not the case. My hands were rooted around the steering wheel, and I clenched it tighter as the view of the pavement began to appear nothing more than a narrow tunnel. My vision became blurry from the other cars headlights shining their spot lights into my eyes. The soft rain was now a torrential down pour and I unknowingly accelerated through an intersection. I felt my entire body harden as I braced myself for impact with an oncoming pickup truck. My brakes were no match for the wet pavement, and we collided. My body jolted forward, and my head slammed into the windshield causing me to lose my grip on the steering wheel. I could hear the screeching from my tires and the scraping of metal as my car spun in circles…

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