By: Leddy Harper

I had two choices—go after her, or get in my car to head home. It should have been an easy choice. She clearly needed help; sitting alone and getting drenched in the pouring rain was enough proof of that. But I had been down this road before. I knew when women walked away from you like that it only meant one thing. They wanted you to follow. They wanted to be chased. I’d had my fair share of women come to me, seeking help, yet the help they were after could have been fulfilled by calling a male escort service. Ivy had already mentioned prostitution and had asked me if I would be having sex with her. Decision made… I walked back to my car.

I threw my bag in the back seat and opened my door, but something made me look back. Something inside of me that left me on edge made me turn back and watch her. If she wanted me to chase her, she would have been looking back at me. She would have been walking slower, much slower, but she wasn’t. I paused for a moment, waiting to see if she’d look over her shoulder, but she didn’t. Maybe she was simply a troubled individual that only sought me out for help.

I got in my car and started the engine. The rain lowered my body temperature to freezing, and the cold leather beneath me didn’t help. But I couldn’t think about that. I wiped the excess water away from my face as I threw the car in reverse and backed out, pulling up next to Ivy as she walked with her head down.

“Get in,” I called to her through the cracked window. Even though the crack was slight, the rain found its way inside and began to soak my car.

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. You’re going to get sick. Let me take you home. Come on. Get in.”

She looked over at me and stopped, causing me to press harder on the brake pedal than I had anticipated. Her fingers held on to the edge of the glass as she pulled her face to the opening. “No, really, I’m fine.” And again, she started walking.

Without thinking, I slammed the gearshift into park and got out. Stopping in front of her, I held on to her shoulders and moved closer to her ear. “I cannot consciously let you walk in the rain. It’s almost dark and you shouldn’t be out here alone. Let me take you home.”

“I’ll get your seat wet,” she argued.

“It’ll survive. I’ve already gotten mine wet. Get in.”

I didn’t let go of her until I could physically feel her concede. Then, I waited to get into the car until she was opening the passenger door and getting in herself. Once we were both inside, I noticed her small, delicate body shivering. It was as if she were convulsing from the coldness inside the car.

Without thinking, I instantly cranked the heat up. The pinpricks of the heat hit my face and I had to fight the images and sounds it brought to the forefront of my mind. If it were up to me, I’d rather suffer from hypothermia than feel the heat on my skin, but I couldn’t do that to Ivy. Her lips had begun to turn a bluish color as they tried to muffle the chattering of her teeth.

“Where to?” I asked, not taking my eyes off her.

“Head down this street. I’m about three blocks up.” Her eyes stared straight ahead, not once looking my way as I sat next to her. She made it clear that my assumption of her was wrong. She wasn’t seeing me to fulfill some sexual fantasy; she really did have a problem. For the first time in years, I felt consumed by the need to find out what it was.

The silence was deafening, only broken up by the sweeping sounds of the windshield wipers. I hated silence. The still air that surrounded it often pulled me into dark places, dark places I never wanted to go to again. Instead of waiting for the pull into my memories, I asked her a question, hoping she would engage in some kind of conversation.

“Have you lived here long?”

She nodded.

I needed a question that would make her voice her answer. “How long?” I implored her to answer with my eyes, even though she still refused to meet them.

“Since I was eleven.”

“Why were you sitting in the rain?” I shouldn’t have asked that. I wanted to stick to the normal conversations that two people who just meet ask. But I couldn’t. I yearned to know why she was sitting on the curb outside of my office in the pouring rain. Usually, I was better at leading into questions, finding answers to some by nothing more than observation, but Ivy had me losing my patience and suffering from a desperate need to know everything immediately.

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