This is my work in progress. I keep revising so these chapters change from time to time. As I'm still working on it, I REALLY APPRECIATE any feedback :-) Thanks for reading.
1998, Arizona, U.S.A.
Lucia lay on the well-worn couch, its cushions drenched with her sweat. Her shirt was hitched up exposing her swollen belly to the hot air. It was July and storm season. The normally dry air was as pregnant with moisture as Lucia was pregnant with child. The swamp cooler chugged away but it gave little relief. Perspiration pooled beneath her plump breast heavy with milk. Lucia felt like a stuffed turkey roasting in the oven.
She rubbed her naked stomach. I hope you don’t plan on stayin’ too much longer, Lucia thought.
Though she was hot and uncomfortable, Lucia didn’t have much else to complain about. Meals were delivered to her door and her dirty dishes whisked away when she was through. She had medical care and prenatal vitamins. Lucia even got a massage once per week. “It enhances blood flow to the fetus,” the massage therapist had explained. Her every need was met.
But instead of feeling like a pampered princess, Lucia felt more like a girl locked in a tower. The armed guards outside her door reminded her that she was not free to go.
Lucia had willingly given up ten months of freedom. It was a small price to pay for the promise of what lie ahead for her. Easy street.
Lucia had never known an easy street. She had been walking on the sidewalk just outside the food bank from which she’d come when a black sedan with darkly tinted windows pulled up beside her.
Instinct told her to walk faster and she did. But the car kept pace. Lucia knew better than to look behind her. “Keep you eyes forward and never make eye contact,” her friend Melina had told her. Curiosity got the better of her and Lucia looked back.
As she looked at the car, a man in the front passenger seat rolled down his window. “Do you need money?” he asked.
“I’m not that kind of girl,” Lucia said. She broke into a run and for once wished that the sidewalks were filled with people. There was no one around her. Lucia could sense the car still behind her, stalking her.
When Lucia got to the crosswalk, the light was red. The man in the car shouted out to her, “It’s not like that. We’ve got honest work for you. A thousand bucks just to sit down and talk about it.”
Lucia did not turn to look at the man. She contemplated whether she was going to turn right and continue running or stay and talk further. If she turned, she may be able to outrun them. They had to wait for the people in front of them to get through the light. But if she stayed … Lucia had never had a thousand dollars all at one time.
But no one ever approached someone on the street and offered honest work. She turned and looked inside the car. The guys were clean cut and wore suits. They didn’t look like drug dealers or pimps. Clean cut white guys in an impeccably detailed but simple black sedan? They’re either feds or Mormons.
“A thousand cash, right now, just to go to an office and talk to some doctors,” the man said. He flashed a wad of cash at her. “And if they accept you and you accept them, a quarter mil.”
Lucia’s jobs had consisted of working at a car wash, cleaning houses and being a bike courier. She didn’t even have a GED. She’d never see that much money if she worked her entire life.
“You say it’s honest? What kind of honest jobs pay that much to homeless people like me?” She tried to look the man in the eyes, but he wore dark sunglasses that kept his eyes and any thoughts they’d betray secret.
“I assure you, there is nothing illegal involved. We work for the government.” The man flashed some kind of a badge but Lucia couldn’t see it well enough to tell what it said. “It will all be explained at the meeting at our offices. And after hearing about the job, if you decide not to take it, you still get the thousand.”
Lucia had left her last foster home at fourteen and now at nineteen, she’d been on the street for close to five years. Her funds had always been measured in tens, not thousands. Lucia thought of all the things she could do with that thousand dollars.
Against every instinct and contrary to every rule of the street ever taught to her by Melina and other friends, Lucia got into the backseat of the car.