A barking dog woke her. She blinked at the light coming through the Venetian blinds and tried to focus, but her contacts were salty and scratching her eyes. In the fog of consciousness she reached for the back of the couch and realized her nakedness. "Oh, dear Jesus, what have I done?" Her plea was more of a prayer than an expletive. "Where are my clothes?"
It was a late stop on the party route, and she didn't even know where she was or how she got there. She remembered finding the leather sofa, but that was the last thing she recalled. She tried to look around the room. "There's nobody here."
She swung her legs over the edge of the couch. Her body ached and she fell to her hands and knees. The scene was much the same each Sunday morning since school started. "If daddy saw me, he'd kill me." The stench of the room made her retch. When she fell back and gasped, her fingers touched a woven stadium blanket. It was wadded on the floor beneath a chair.
She pulled on the blanket and the chair tipped. A cell phone toppled off to the floor. It wasn't hers, but she picked it up. "Hope it has battery." She held onto the chair and managed to stand and wrap the blanket around her body. Then, she walked to the front door and pulled it open. The fresh air rushed in. "Lord, that feels good. Why don't You keep me out of these messes?"
She flipped open the phone and dialed a memorized cell phone number. Her lab partner gave her his number during class. "It's was one of those cute numbers. He said, 'just dial I love God, but spell love like l - u v'."
A groggy voice answered. "Yeah?"
"Martin, listen, don't hang up." Tears welled in her eyes. "This is Shelly, you know, from school."
"Oh, hey Shell, what time is it?"
She pulled the blanket tighter around her body. Through sobs she said, "Martin, I'm in trouble and need help; they took my clothes." She looked at the phone screen. "It's six forty-five." She started shaking and crying.
"Shelly, where are you? What's going on?"
"If you'll take me to my dorm, I'll finish the lab project myself; you won't have to do a thing." Her sobs grew louder. "Or, I'll do anything you want."
"You owe me nothing. I'm putting on my shoes now. Where are you?"
She stepped into the yard and looked both ways down the street. "I don't know and I don't recognize the street." Tears rolled off her cheeks.
"Shelly, any mail in the mailbox?"
She moved back onto the porch and peered in the mailbox. It was empty, but a car dealer's mailing card was crushed and stuffed in an empty flower box. "This card says 'occupant, 2255 River Lane'."
"I'll find it." He clicked off his phone.
Minutes later a Ford pickup showed up at the curb. Shelly tossed the cell phone in the doorway and ran to the truck.
He didn't speak until she was fully in the truck. "Shelly, are you alright?"
She choked, "Oh yeah, just dandy."
"I'll take you to your dorm, but I'm going by friend's house on the way. Okay?"
Shelly ducked her chin. "Whatever." Who sees friends this early? "I can stay in the truck, right?" She rolled down the window.
"If you want to."
They drove in silence until they came to a small brick house. When Martin pulled into the driveway, a young woman walked out to the truck. Martin got out and went around to the passenger side. "Shelly, meet Tina; this is her house."
"Hello Shelly," said Tina. "I have a tee shirt and shorts for you on the kitchen table, and some undies that should fit."
"Must be Martin's girlfriend," she whispered to herself. Shelly pulled the blanket closer. She felt her face begin to burn. Suddenly, she felt un-cool. "Okay," she whispered through rolling tears.
"Hey, come on in. Get dressed, and then we can talk over coffee before the crowd gets here." Tina opened the truck door. "If you wanna stay."
"Just a bunch of Christian college kids who come to sing and praise. You're welcome to join us."
Shelly felt her face burning again. "What will they think of me?"
Tina laughed quietly, "Jesus loves you, no matter what; so do we."
"dub" is a freelance Christian writer, best known for his straight forward approach to common issues. His 38 year professional writing career gives him keen insight into successful reporting. To contact dub email firstname.lastname@example.org