The wind lifted Meganís hair as she floated skyward on her backyard swing. Her fatherís hands lightly brushed her shoulders as she returned to earth, for another push. The sun warmed her face. She peered through squinted eyes at the wispy clouds. Megan could almost touch them as the swing lifted her higher and higher.
Saltwater sandals pointed toward the sky, she leaned back in the familiar rubber seat, supported at the end of two rusty chains. The chain creaked and groaned with each push. Megan found comfort in the sounds. The rusty chain joined with the distant hum of a neighborís lawn mower. Rustling leaves complimented the backyard symphony. The sounds reminded her of home and safety.
But Megan was not home.
And she was not safe.
Megan slipped back into consciousness, back into the nightmare. Her neck was bent backwards over the edge of the bed. The swing of her youth had been a dream, an oasis in the desert of her desperation. She tried to inhale. Her nostrils found no air, only the black plastic bag that had been wrapped around her head.
Canít breathe. She stiffened and tried to move as panic set her heart racing once more. Oh, God, will it be over soon? Please make it be over.
She cried out when her attacker straddled her on the creaking bed, swearing and punching at her face and chest.
Megan swallowed harder, trying to choke down the salty blood that filled her throat. Gray duct tape covered her lips and cheeks, and a rag stuffed in her mouth degraded her screams to guttural moans.
Please God, let me die. Take me home. Would He hear her pleas after all these years? Would he listen? God, how could you let this happen?
No. How could I do this to myself? I came here on my own. I didnít know . . .. Hot tear cascaded from her eyes into her hair.
In the distance, a child laughed, oblivious to the horrific crime occurring in the dark, dirty bedroom of the low-rent apartment building. Megan prayed for her dream to return. She longed to be a child again, floating on her swing in the endless summer days of her youth. To feel her fathers hands upon her shoulders. To know his love. She was the oldest daughter of a Pastor, and a devoted Christian until . . . When had she stopped? When he died.
Daddy, Iím sorry.
Her tormentor tore the ornate silver cross from her neck breaking the chain.
No! Please. She had little time to think about the cross and its significance. It had been a gift from her father on her confirmation. Thick, hard hands closed around her throat, crushing her fragile windpipe. The bones in her neck cracked and Meganís desperate prayer was answered.