Izabella, or Izzy, as her mom called her, had a way about her that instantly attracted people to her, old and young.
If she was going to the store, she would knock on her elderly neighbor’s house to see if she needed anything.
If she was going to the library, she would ask the little kids in the ghetto apartment complex if they wanted to go with her.
They’d always say yes, and off they went across the street like a trail of ducklings.
Her mom was a project manager and was always getting reassigned to different cities, ever since her parents divorced when she was six.
Izzy also attracted the wrong kind of people.
Sometimes older men would offer to walk her places, and of course, being the sweet darling that she was, she’d say yes.
Her mom wasn’t aware of this, working 60+ hours a week as she did.
Sometimes older men would offer to buy her drinks.
And of course, she’d say “no,” but if they insisted a little, if they got her hung up on some silly personal story, then she’d walk into a food joint with them, and before she knew it, she’d had three or four drinks.
Then someone would text her, she’d look at the time, she’d excuse herself gracefully, or as gracefully as one can excuse one’s self in slurred language, and the guy would call her a cab.
Then one night the guy got in the cab with her.
She can’t remember how many she’d had to drink that night, or the guy’s name.
She’d seen him a few times at the library.
He seemed respectable enough.
Maybe 23? 25? years old.
He told her he was in college, but she can’t remember which one.
Anyway, that night was Izzy’s 16th birthday.
Her mom had called her a few hours earlier to cancel dinner plans.
Her dad hadn’t returned her voice mails.
Izzy could have been with her friends, but she felt frustrated.
She knew that soon her mom would get re-assigned to another city and once she left, all her friends could care less about her.
So she stayed up late drinking with this sort of stranger.
When they got out of the cab they had been making out for 15 straight minutes.
Izzy looked out the window as the guy paid the driver.
“This looks like my old house I used to live in when I was 12,” she said excitedly.
The guy got out and opened the door for her.
“I don’t live here.”
“It’s alright. You can stay with me tonight.”
Izzy looked at her cell phone as if still expecting her dad to call back any second.
She frowned as she gave up on that idea and bounced out of the cab.
The following two weeks, Izzy was busy packing and she never ran into that guy again.
At Pine Valley High, Izzy had trouble making friends.
It was the middle of the school year and her cheerfulness seemed to rub people the wrong way.
It was too late to try to join any teams.
She was the only one in her class who had a driver’s license, since the state she was coming from had a lower age requisite to start driving than the one she was now living in.
Then there was Lizzy.
Lizzy was the quiet studious type.
Nothing in common with Izzy.
She had a relatively small group of friends and would often run into Izzy while walking home.
Izzy would offer her a ride.
On one occasion, Izzy told Lizzy she hadn’t gotten her period.
Lizzy gasped in disbelief.
“Do you think you’re pregnant?”
Izzy looked down embarrassed.
“Have you told your mom?”
“She’ll kill me,” said Izzy. “She’s been saving for me to go to college since I was five. No way in hell will she let me keep it.”
Lizzy started giggling.
“What’s so funny?” asked Izzy, annoyed.
“Your mom thinks you’re gonna get into college.”
Izzy floored the accelerator and turned the music up.
She got on the first on-ramp of the interstate south.
“Where are we going???” asked Lizzy.
“To find the guy.”
“Izzy, you don’t even know where this guy lives, let alone his name!”
“I know where he likes to eat.”
Lizzy turned the volume down.
“You’re gonna get me in trouble. Take me home.”
Izzy pulled over on the side of the freeway, got out of the car, and started kicking it.
She didn’t notice Lizzy was crying inside.
The sun was setting and Izzy’s rage seemed to fill the sky a fiery red.
Finally Lizzy got out of the car and yelled, “It’s OK! You’ll be alright! I’ll take care of you!”
Izzy turned around with drops of sweat glistening on her forehead.
She couldn’t believe Lizzy was willing to stick her neck out for her.
They had only known each other for a couple months.
Then she turned around and threw up.