Safe, for Now | Teen Ink

Safe, for Now

June 27, 2022
By RH GOLD, Sammamish, Washington
RH GOLD, Sammamish, Washington
19 articles 12 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
keep calm and stop being lazy.

The week before I finished my final, uneventful year of middle school, I saw a dark-haired girl being wrestled into a van.

She looks the same age as me.

I stopped cold on the cracked, blistering sidewalk beside the abandoned nuclear plant enclosed by barbed wire. It was my usual route home from school, but nothing today was usual. At the plant entrance, a banged-up white van was parked haphazardly, rear double doors swinging wildly with the commotion.

Sweat dripped down my nose as I tucked my convenience-store chocolate bar into my pocket and raised my phone.

Two men. Uniforms. A license plate.

Is this even a good idea?

Across the street, a dog walker wearing headphones was oblivious. A texting driver passed unaware. I took a brave step forward, fumbling to magnify the view on my phone’s camera.

A muffled cry from the girl preceded movement at the van window. On the passenger side, a third man sat scanning for onlookers. In a moment that felt like an hour, he squinted into the side mirror, memorizing my image as I memorized his.

Sun-baked skin. Tattooed arm. Angry grimace.


My courage vanished the moment I heard the phone snap a picture, and I was gone in a flash, my feet thumping on the sidewalk. I arrived home breathless on wobbly legs, my heart hammering against my ribs.

I should feel safe now.

But with my snack dropped somewhere along the way, a breadcrumb of my ordinary life was left behind for the watching man.

My school. My route. My home.

Ever since that day, my heart races at the sight of lonely buildings, scowling men in uniforms, and battered vans which appear around every corner.

The dark-haired girl is still out there. And I am here—safe for now.

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