January 2 Jeff He loves me. He loves me not...I think I’ve plucked off every single pedal from every wild daisy around me. It doesn’t matter anymore. I should go home. Mom is worried by now. Maybe not. She doesn’t care. Or I don’t care. I’m so tired. I wish I could drown. I can fill my pockets with heavy rocks, jump into the Ochlocknee River and let it carry me out to the Gulf of Mexico...out to a sea of love.
Addie was lying on a bed of cool, wet grass along the bank of a sinkhole surrounded by summer lush maples, pines, cypress, and oaks trees. Her head and shoulders were slightly elevated in his lap. She felt his hands wiping off the dirt and gently pulling her hair out of her face. The air was thick with dew as the early morning sun peaked between each tree trunk; sparkling rays shining across her moist naked belly.          Addie had originally fallen asleep in the back of a pick-up truck. Sometime, while the moon still reflected off the surface of the water in the sinkhole, she stumbled out of the pick-up and walked toward the bank. She sat down next to the water with her legs against her chest; resting her chin on top of her right knee. The water was dark and quiet while the night creatures tiptoed watching her curiously. The air was anchored by an orchestra of crickets and other insects serenading the leaves and swooning their potential mates.          She lifted her chin and lowered her right leg toward the water. She placed her toes just above the surface anticipating the moonlight dancing over every ripple. Quickly, she dipped her big toe in and out watching the ringlets of water spiral outward until encircling the sinkhole. The sinkhole was only seventeen feet in diameter but over ninety feet deep. She looked down into the water hoping to see a summoning. But the water was black and anything even only inches below the surface could not be seen. She saw the moonlight cast a hazy halo and shadow where her face might be reflected in the water.          She waved her long hair side to side a few inches above the surface, watching the light and imagined falling in, going straight down without the want or need to come back up. She breathed as if her body suddenly mutated itself; acquiring gills that worked with lungs. Her eyes like those of a deep sea creature enabling her to see through the darkness; inspecting every tiny single-celled organism floating and squirming inside each molecule of water. As she sank farther down the water grew colder numbing her fingertips and toes.          Her body slowed and began to hover in the murky depths noticing caverns all around. Every cave looked alike; every opening exactly the same size. She spun, twisting her body in circles trying to count each one but found herself recounting the same caves over and over not knowing where she had begun. Franticly, she stopped, realizing the sinkhole was expanding around her; the bank evading the splash of water rings. She thought she must return to the surface but with every effort to swim upward she was cast farther down.          Suddenly she felt something grab her hair as her body was pulled up quickly. She felt the rush of warm air hit her face and fill her lungs replacing what the water had stolen; coughing and fighting to breathe. As the water drained from her ears she heard the crickets again. A large arm came across her breasts holding her body upright from behind while seated on the ground a few feet away from the sinkhole. She heard him breathing heavily but he didn’t say a word.          She was exhausted and could barely hold her eyes open. She sneezed a few times as she was lifted then carried and placed on the open tailgate of the truck. She closed her eyes and drifted into sleep. The orchestra of insects sounded muffled like cotton had been stuffed inside her ears. She heard a voice but it was low and mumbling. Another voice, and another chimed in and she thought she may be dreaming. Her shoulders hurt and her arms were aching. The pain kept her somewhere between sleep and awake until she was pulled by her arms into a seated position on the tailgate.          “What’s happening?” “Where am I?”          Addie heard no response but instead felt the caress of fingers on her cheek. The fingers found their way towards her mouth and carefully pried apart her teeth slipping something small, soft and spongy on her tongue.          “Swaller dis, baby. It’ll make ya feel bedder.”          She swallowed. She felt a straw placed between her lips and something sweet and bubbly came through when she sucked. It tasted fruity and helped cleanse her pallet of the rancid taste of whatever she had swallowed. Maybe it will help. Maybe this is all a bad dream. Maybe I will wake up in my bed.          Addie didn’t think she would ever see her bed or her home again. She had run away and was charmed by a man with a truck destined to take her anywhere she wanted to go; away from Woodville, away from Florida, away from the heat and away from her life. She never intended on hitchhiking but after the head gasket had blown on her 1987 Reliant she thought her only chance to get away this time would be to hitch from town to town with truckers. They all had sleeping arrangements in their cabs and she thought it would be more exciting than sleeping on a campground. She couldn’t afford a motel room and thought that maybe a few blow jobs could earn her a few rides. But it was Frank and his baby blue 1974 old pick-up that stopped for her rather than a busy and tired trucker trying to finish his route.          She was strolling up County Road 261 when Frank pulled over in front of her. There wasn’t much of a shoulder so she was practically walking in the road. Frank had just swerved in time to miss her. When he slowed and looked in the rearview mirror he noticed she hadn’t even flinched. That’s when he decided to stop. She must’ve heard the truck pass and pull partly off the road half a football field in front of her but she kept her pace nevertheless.          Addie hung her head unusually low as if purposefully ignoring the world around her. She stared at her feet taking each step deliberately and carefully along the edge of the asphalt as if walking on a balance beam. She listened to the wind in the trees blowing late summer leaves, crispy and ready to die. She occasionally heard the flapping of wings most likely various hawks and kites that nested in the tops of pines. Autumn was soon to arrive and the hurricane season gulf stream winds had every creature preparing their young to leave the nest and venture out into the Apalachicola National Forest alone.          Addie was alone. She had run away from home many times since she was nine after her father died in a shrimping boat accident during a tropical storm; his body never found at sea. Everyday for months her mother sobbed while holding the trinkets her dad brought home after several weeks in the gulf; salty tear drops falling on a small cedar carving of a dolphin.          Her mother became obsessed with collecting plastic milk jugs to eventually fill with sea water and white sand from the gulf coast but developed a fear of the ocean and lost the courage to go anywhere near it. She began to go to seedy bars and drink every night and remarried some redneck alcoholic she met at a bar in Crawfordville. Her dad had only died eight months prior.          Addie had to leave the toxic atmosphere of a drunk stepfather and the rotten stench of hundreds of milk jugs scattered across the lawn in which her mother refused to throw away. She was tired of caring for her two younger brothers, one who was too old to still be in diapers. After five years of brief runaway adventures with boys that lasted only a few days at a time she thought it best to plan an escape alone with no returning home. She no longer felt desperate for the attention of horny brats with their tails wagging and filthy tongues hanging out of their mouths. She was still dating Jerry whom she met at high school during her freshmen year but decided to leave him behind with the rest of the past. Despite the danger Addie would do anything to get away from her life even if it meant being alone along a desolate county road.          “Hey there? Y’alright?”          No answer. As Addie approached the back of the truck she stopped and didn’t make a move to walk around. She hadn’t decided yet whether to trust this ride or not.          “Hey. Whuts yer name?”          She waited a few moments then finally looked up from her feet. The man wore brown steel-toe work boots, blue jeans and a white short-sleeve undershirt. He had a red and black flannel tied around his waste with a pack of Camels almost falling out of one of the pockets. As Addie’s eyes moved upward she noticed the man was tall and had wisps of dirty blonde hair barely touching his shoulders; the rest was tied back in a pony tail. He had a small mustache and some scruff on his chin like he was trying to grow a goatee. His nose was long and slender and his eyes were piercing green almost glowing from all the greenery of the forest behind him. Addie thought the man was handsome.          “Need a ride somewur? C’mon, I take ya.”          “Adelaide, but you can call me Addie and I am going anywhere but Woodville.”          “I’m Frank. Looks like rains a comin’ so hop in.”          Addie walked along the slanted shoulder trying to maintain her footing having to grab the side of the truck a few times before getting to the passenger door. She took a quick glance in the side mirror hoping she didn’t look too windblown or teary eyed before getting into the truck. Frank started the truck. It had stalled while waiting outside for her approach. He pumped the gas a few times as the engine finally cranked. She placed her backpack on her lap and stared straight ahead waiting for him to initiate conversation.          Frank looked over at her trying to figure out her age before asking. He noticed the black mascara around her eyes was a little runny. Her eyes were blue but not a light blue; rather a dark blue like the gulf waters a few miles out from the panhandle coastline. He noticed her little round nose and a small mouth but with shapely lips. Her face was round with high cheek bones; maybe some Cherokee in her blood. Her hair was dark brown almost black, thick, very long and hung down over her ears. She was wearing a brown leather necklace with various colored beads; some looked painted with flowers and little suns and moons. She wore a black tank top which showed little cleavage of her B-cupped breasts. Her body was slender and the olive green cargo pants that sat on her waist had three pockets running down each leg. He noticed her black boots could possibly be Dr. Martins but most likely an imitation brand. Nonetheless, he was impressed and satisfied that he stopped.          “So wur ya headin’ an whya walkin’?”          “I’m running away...again. Huh, I say that like I’m a kid. But I’m not. My boyfriend is boring and I’m tired and I think if I get out of Florida completely I may actually stay gone for longer than a few weeks this time!”          Addie rambled on like she hadn’t talked to anyone in years. She acted like Frank was her new found therapist rescuing her from the peril of a dysfunctional insane world. She spoke to him freely occasionally stopping to take in a deep breath before resuming into another long winded sentence of why she hated Woodville and everyone there. When she was a kid the mail lady used to piss her off staring at the trash laying everywhere, throwing around snide glances while placing the mail in the box. She’d scowl; contorting her face in an absurdly melodramatic fashion. Then she’d roll her eyes underneath that hideous safari hat before returning her attention to the road.          Frank listened as Addie told her story like a child describing her first trip to the fair; his pick-up was the Ferris wheel all lit up with circus music floating through the air like a blown dandelion. But it was Frank’s radio blaring the sulking sound of an old country ballad which was swept out the rolled down windows scaring away any deer, squirrels or feral cats nearby in the woods. She stopped abruptly mid sentence pulling something out of her backpack. She answered her cell and faced the window speaking into the phone with her hand cupped over her mouth. Frank heard a forced whisper develop into an angry mumble as Addie’s voice grew louder.          “No I’m not coming back. Goodbye Jerry!” She threw the phone out the window wiping her face on her arm and sniffling.          “So where were we?”          Frank interrupted. “Uh, you okay? Wanna go back fer da phone?”          “Nope. Im done. So where do you live? How old are you?”          “Well, I live in Thomasville an I’m uh...I’m 27. How old are you?”          “Nineteen...but I been on my own since sixteen so I’m much more mature than I look.”          “I can see that.” Frank said as he stared at Addie’s breasts.          It was a Sunday morning and very few cars were on the road. They came up on one large four-door sedan crawling at thirty miles-per-hour packed with a family of seven. Frank yelled out the window. As soon as an oncoming truck had passed he floored the gas pedal and jerked the wheel to the left to pass. Addie let go of her backpack and let it fall to the floor as she grabbed the door rest with one hand and the seat belt latch with the other.          Frank popped opened two cans of Budweiser and handed Addie one. He pulled out a couple of cigarettes and she grabbed the cigarette and lighter. She lit up and inhaled like she was smoking a joint. Frank smiled has he exhaled and slapped the steering wheel. He began to sing along with an old Tammy Wynette song on the radio. Addie knew the tune only because her dad had a collection of old classic country as well as Motown records that were passed down from her grandfather. She took a swig off the can then began to sing along. Frank looked over in disbelief but satisfied.          He pulled into a dirt parking lot and parked in front of TJ’s Pub. It was a small cottage type building made of wood and painted blue with a tin roof and a porch on the front. He turned off the ignition and sat drinking his beer and smoking his cigarette. Addie wasn’t sure if she was being kicked out or if this was a pit stop. She hoped for the latter considering the dark clouds ahead. She still didn’t know anything about him except his age and where he lived. She wasn’t sure if either were the truth.          “So why we stopped?”          “Why you ask so many questions?”          “Should I go?” Addie wasn’t sure if Frank was joking or not.          “Nah, I can give you a ride up to Thomasville but no further. I ain’t goin’ no further. I gotta get some stuff from a friend here an I be right back. Yup for partyin’?”          In Thomasville? Addie shrugged her shoulders. She had nowhere to be and Jerry couldn’t call her now. She felt a twinge in her gut but it subsided. The beer was already relaxing her. She started to feel free and daring wanting to try anything with anyone.          Frank jumped out and slammed the door. He was gone for what seemed like an hour. It started to rain. Addie had reached over the gear shift into the cooler on the driver side floor. She grabbed another beer then got out a small book with a brown leather binding from her backpack. She opened the book flipping through the pages then stopped about two-thirds through. She read from the top left page to refresh her memory of the last couple of getaways. August 22 David I’m swimming in a sea of love. I love that song! Sea of Love. Do you remember where we met...I want to tell you...I love you. I can’t remember all the words. David is so cute. He told me I am beautiful and that I look like an angel with my hair floating all around my naked body in the water. We went swimming in Camel Lake today. I felt like I was in heaven. I wanted stay in the water with him. I sucked him under water. He loved it and kissed me. Maybe he loves me? Well, its only been a couple of weeks. Maybe I should let it go. Maybe he doesn’t love me at all. Maybe he lied about going away! OMG what if he did? Oh, Jerry what have done? Why am I here? I love you so much, baby. I’m coming back, I swear it.
August 31 Home Oh Jerry makes me feel so good. He cried when he saw me. I said sorry but I don’t know if he believed me. We sat for a while without talking. He stopped asking about my “little adventures” a few times ago. Maybe he doesn’t care anymore.
March 14 Billy It is still so cold. I wanna stay high. The pot Billy gave me was super good. It had something else in it but I don’t know what. I think I will make love to him tonight. We been driving over to his friend Larry’s house and when Larry goes in the other room to bang his girlfriend I can hear them plain as day! So gross! Billy seems nice. He’s quiet. I think he’s a virgin. I haven’t asked him yet. I sucked him once already but he didn’t come. I’m not sure if he can. He seems nervous. I may go home tomorrow. Only been gone for a few days but it is cold and Billy won’t take me anywhere. At least David took me to Mobile one weekend! But he left me on the beach one night and didn’t come back until the next day. I cried all night and had no where to go. Bastard! But not Billy. He wouldn’t do that to me. Anyway, its too cold for the beach.
M 17 I made Billy come today! He really liked it. Maybe he likes me now. Afterwards, his eyes looked so droopy and brown like a puppy dog. I think I’m getting better. I like it okay as long as he doesn’t start pushing my head down. I hate that. It makes me gag and almost puke. He told me to use my hand too. Thats when he finally did it.
M 18 We are in my car. Billy is driving. He is driving me home? WTF? I thought we were going to Orlando! Wait a sec...I’ll be back... OMG he said he had to cuz I was crazy! I’m crazy? I’m gonna kill him! Who does he think he is driving my car anyway? I had to pretend I was sick to get him to stop! When he got out to help I jumped back in and left him there. On I-75. He deserved it. He’s a jerk! I hate him!
March 19 Home Jerry loves me. I know it. We made love at our favorite sinkhole today. I will never leave again. I love him so much!          Addie uncapped her pen and began to write a new entry. She nodded her head in disbelief as she glanced back at the old entries. The diary was filled with so many encounters of so many men.
September 16th Frank Frank is so cute. I love his hair. He stares at me like Jeff used to and I can’t wait to…          Addie jumped when she heard Frank come out the door and slip off the wet porch colliding with the hood of his truck. He swung himself around and opened the door quickly then hopped in like a kid ready to show off a new toy.          “I got us some good shit. Sorry took so long. Ya still up fer a party?”          Addie adjusted herself awkwardly. She had the diary hidden between her legs. She leaned over to slide the diary out and into the backpack. Frank peaked over to glance down her top. She immediately sat up after the diary was secure.          “Yeah, sure, I’m game. Where we going?”          Frank backed the truck out and headed back in the direction they had come. “We goin’ ta ma friend Eddie’s house. He’s gotta pool table an plenty uh beer...an some weed if yer interested.”          Addie sat back, sighed and nodded in agreement. She had already drank several beers from Frank’s cooler and didn’t have a care in the world. As they headed south on 261 he turned up the radio. The rain stopped and the moist wind blew in and around the cab forcefully. She closed her eyes and leaned back resting her head against the glass behind her. She imagined herself falling off a cliff lifting her arms while her body sank into the seat. She saw herself flying through the air like a hummingbird darting and twisting and dancing to the music of the forest. Frank looked over and watched her. He noticed the beer between her legs and slowly reached over. She moved her arms and he jerked back so not to be discovered invading her moment.          She felt the tension of the air change then opened her eyes. “What are you doing?”          “Oh nuttin’. Is dat beer hot? Wanna cold one?”          Addie opened her legs and leaned her head back again. Frank reached for the beer sliding it against her crotch as he lifted it out from between her legs. She closed her eyes and let the wind blow her hair across her face. He threw the can out the window and grabbed another out of the cooler. She heard him pop open a can but didn’t move. He sat holding the beer watching her with eyes closed and body relaxed. He placed the can between his knees.          She waited a few moments then opened her eyes looking over for the beer. Frank’s hand slipped off the top of the can immediately when he noticed her look over. He slid his hand down the can and picked it up handing it to her instead. She chugged down half the beer opening her legs wider while looking over at him. He placed his hand over her left breast cupping it and running his thumb over the tank top across the nipple. She shuddered. He ran his hand down her belly and between her legs pressing firmly over her cargo pants. She jumped and closed her legs quickly. She drank the rest of the beer then looked over at him with a coy smirk. Frank smiled noticing the can was empty. He handed Addie a cigarette then continued to drive focussing on the road.          They pulled into someone’s driveway and she assumed it was the friend, Eddie. He got out and slammed the door almost running into the house. He looked back and motioned for her to come on. She opened the door and almost fell out before her feet could find the ground. He had already gone inside when she stood upright and looked toward the front door of the house. She was dizzy but not sick. She stumbled out from behind the door then closed it gently. The sun was directly overhead between huge cumulonimbus clouds moving southeast. It must have been around noon and the church crowd would be out and about soon. She thought she’d better slip inside before anyone saw her.          She walked slowly to the door watching her limited shadow stay underfoot. She was free and wanted to dance. This beer had a strange effect and she didn’t question. She walked inside and saw Frank standing over a pool table hooting and hollering over a bank shot. He handed her his beer knowing she would drink it. She gulped down the rest of the can and Frank laughed telling her to slow down. Eddie walked over to Addie and introduced himself and another guy named Jeff.          “Addie as in Adelaide?” Jeff reached out to shake Addie’s hand but she didn’t return the favor.          “I know you. You remember me? We had some eighth grade classes together.”          “Oh yeah? Is that all?” Addie knew the voice but the face was hazy most likely because she couldn’t see anything straight. “I need to sit down.”          “C’mon sweets you remember me.”          Addie started to think about eighth grade. Her memory was a bit foggy. She spent much of her time off campus skipping school, smoking pot and skinny dipping with a group of friends. As she glanced over each face from her memory she realized Jeff was the first guy to kiss her. She was only fourteen and fell in love with Jeff watching her in P.E. He used to study her every move whether she ran around the track or slammed a volleyball over the net. Addie enjoyed the attention until he finally invited her to skip class one Friday and go swimming with him and his friends. Many flowers were destroyed in trying to determine her fate with Jeff.          Frank walked over and stood between the two of them. He turned his back to Jeff and leaned toward Addie. She found herself consumed with passion for the heroic Frank. She wasn’t sure if it was to avoid Jeff or avoid her past. She leaned on Frank pressing her breasts against his chest. He reached down and pulled her hands around his back then tilting his head downward placed his mouth on hers forcing her face upward. Her head fell back and his mouth drifted down her neck. He grabbed her breasts and squeezed tightly. She flinched but pushed her pelvis into him. He grabbed her face and pushed his tongue into her mouth kissing her vigorously.          Eddie walked over and pushed Frank off. “It’s yer shot, loverboy!”          Frank went back to the pool table and continued playing pool with Eddie. Addie felt the tension of Jeff’s presence in the room. She couldn’t tell where he was. She felt strange and flushed unusually more so than a beer buzz would provide. She looked around the room and noticed an old brown dusty couch and a small table beside it. There was a lamp sitting on the table without its shade. Her eyes were drawn to the light. She stared at the light for several seconds then looked away admiring the haloed blotches of green and yellow hues scattered in her view. Every color in the room began to dance away from the object in which it came. The purple trim on a movie poster squiggled off the poster forming an ocean of waves perpendicular to the lines of paneling on the walls. The haloed blotches bounced inside the waves while various colored balls rose off the pool table. The numbers were running around each spinning ball to avoid being identified.          Addie knew there was something else affecting her besides the beer but didn’t care. She wanted Frank back in her arms. She closed her eyes and turned around in circles feeling the window fan beat the air into her face on each spin. She felt the arms of someone stop behind her. He was tall and his chin rested on the top of her head while he rubbed his hands up and down her breasts and crotch. He grind himself against her back and she felt his erection through his jeans. She turned around to kiss him. Jeff slid his tongue into her mouth still grinding. Frank looked over and Eddie laughed.          “I want some uh dat.”          “Yeah but I’m first, so back da fuck off.”          Jeff said alright and walked away from Addie as she stood leaning into the air waiting for more attention. Frank handed his pool stick to Jeff and picked her up. He walked her over to the couch and laid her down unsnapping and unzipping her pants. He pulled her tank top up over her breasts and began sucking. Eddie and Jeff taunted and teased. Frank pulled down Addie’s pants and climbed on top. She wasn’t responding. She hadn’t passed out but laid there blinking like a stroke victim with her mouth hanging open.          Frank unzipped his jeans and pulled out his erection.          “Wanna suck it baby? Jeff said you can suck real good.”          Addie didn’t move. The corners of her mouth turned upward into a half smile while her mouth opened wider. Eddie and Jeff laughed and encouraged Frank to get a blow job. Frank grabbed himself and forced it in her mouth. He pumped himself back and forth while she drooled all over herself gagging. The guys were still laughing when Frank let out a yell. He sat up and said “Whose next?”          Jeff hobbled over with his pants already around his ankles. He flipped Addie over on her stomach and climbed on top of her. She turned her head to the side as she lay flat on the couch with one leg hanging down; knee on the floor. Jeff pushed apart her legs and plunged himself in. Addie began to moan.           “She likes it! She fucking likes it!” Frank screamed embarrassingly.          “Oh fucker man! Fuck her hard!” Eddie chimed in.          Addie started to lift herself but Jeff pushed her down. She moaned and mumbled something but no one could understand her. Jeff arched is back and thrusted faster and faster until he ejaculated. He tripped over his own pants while getting up and tucking himself back in his pants. Eddie walked over for his reward.          “Ha ha sloppy thirds, bitch!” Jeff yelled at Eddie.          Eddie turned Addie over. She was crying.          “Please...stop...Frank help... sto...” Addie mumbled.          She felt queazy and a cold sweat came over her entire body. She opened her eyes wide but saw nothing but black as a soft sizzling sound echoed inside her head. She could hear voices faintly. She tried to sit up but there was a dead weight of 250 pounds straddling her waist. She struggled to move squirming around but Eddie pushed her shoulders down into the couch. He shoved her so hard her head slammed into the arm of the couch. She felt the surge of pain where her head had hit exposed pieces of wood from worn down and ripped cushioning. She tried to yell out but couldn’t muster up enough energy to even cry. She lie there whimpering softly; breathing very labored. What’s going on? Somebody help me?          Addie lifted her arms attempting to hit or distract whoever was on top of her. She felt someone pull her arms up over her head holding them firmly. Something brittle was being wrapped and tied around her wrists. The hands let go of her arms as she jerked them hoping the knot wasn’t tight enough. The weight on her body began to shift. With each movement she knew within a few moments she wouldn’t be awake.          Eddie was pulling his shorts with an elastic waistband down below his crotch and hairy, pimply ass. He stood up naked wanting to pull Addie’s legs farther apart so he could fit in between. The extra fat around Eddie’s belly and legs was making penetration difficult. He forcefully yanked her pants completely off from around her ankles then plopped himself on top of her again. He looked at her face noticing her eyes were closed. With one knee on the couch and the other foot on the floor he grabbed himself trying to put himself inside her. Struggling, Eddie became angry while the other two laughed.          “Shut da fuck up, assholes!” Eddie was furious and his erection became limp.          Eddie got up insisting they untie her wrists so he could put her upright on the couch and pull her body towards the edge of the couch. But he gave up instead.          “Ah fuck it, we better get the hell out of here before my wife comes home.”          “You have dis much trouble wit her too?” Jeff teased as Eddie pulled his shorts back up.          Jeff grabbed several beers and orange sodas from the refrigerator. “C’mon Frank, lets take yer truck out to dat sinkhole I told y’all bout.”          Frank untied Addie’s wrists and pulled her tank top down. He grabbed her pants but left her panties then picked her up. He walked out with her over his shoulder while Jeff and Eddie followed. Eddie opened the door to the pick-up then Frank sat her inside. Addie opened her eyes squinting at the afternoon sun shining directly in her face. She felt weak but the sizzling sound began to go away and she could see a little more than black spots all over. She realized she was sitting naked on the vinyl seat of the truck with her pants laying across her lap. Her mouth was dry and when she attempted to speak her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.          “Can I have some water?” She whispered.          Frank handed Addie a can of beer. Without hesitation she drank. She looked down at the can and asked for water again. Eddie threw a canteen of water in her lap. “Here but I need the canteen back. My wife gave it to me.”          Addie leaned back putting her pants on then began to drink the water slowly. She heard the engine sputter on and her body jerk sideways as Frank backed out of the driveway like he was in a race. He stopped for Eddie to get in the back. Eddie clumsily climbed into the pick-up practically rolling in and knocking over Jeff’s beer in the process. Jeff made some snide remark as they left and headed south on 261.          The windows were down and the air was a little cooler. Addie thought the first cool front was arriving a little early this year. Though it was still summer, autumn was only several days away. She missed the water in the autumn and winter months. When it was warm she spent as more time in the water than outside it. Whether it was a lake, pond, Ochlocknee River, Apalachicola River, or a sinkhole she swam every day. The water would cradle her body swallowing every pore of her skin. She spent most of the time floating on her back, watching the mockingbirds and cardinals fly overhead before closing her eyes and listening to the hush of water fill her ears. She especially loved to swim in the Gulf of Mexico where she felt closer to her dad. This was the only time she felt at peace.          In the autumn she enjoyed watching the leaves change color falling from bare branches waving into the sky before going fast asleep in a dark, quiet, dormant winter. She envied the trees as they disappeared for months at a time with no regret and no turning back until spring. She imagined herself falling asleep soundly; entangled in the roots of an old oak to keep warm under the ground safe and away from all the bad smells and voices. No matter what the season she needed silence in her restless world.          Addie wanted to run away without the eventual regret that would creep up into her throat. She didn’t know any other way to escape the discontentment with her surroundings. Or she wanted to be happy in a home with Jerry. She wanted to feel satisfied with the simple pleasures of life. Maybe I didn’t run far enough away from home. Maybe I still smell the rotten remnants of milk stuck to the bottom of each jug scattered across my mothers lawn and trailer. Maybe Jerry will take me away from Woodville if I promise never to leave him again.          She jumped when she heard a sudden pounding on the back window.          “Turn left here! HERE, Frank!”          Frank turned onto a dirt road full of deep ruts and holes. Addie knew exactly where they were going. There were several waterholes in the area but this particular one was small and less people visited this area. Most of the visitors were young teenagers smoking the pot they stole from their fathers stash in his nightstand drawer. Addie knew this place all too well. She was still in Florida. She was still in Woodville. Jerry’s place was only ten miles away. Now she needed a real escape plan but three big men against one woman wasn’t going to be easy especially since they were keeping her doped up on something she hadn’t figured out yet.          Frank handed her another beer. He was hitting the holes in the road throwing Jeff and Eddie up on every bump. She threw down the beer spilling it all over the floor.          “Dammit, you clumsy bitch!”          “I don’t want it. I don’t feel well. I’m gonna puke. Stop the truck...STOP the fucking truck!”          “Bitch, don’t puke in my truck! Hold on!”          Frank slammed on the brakes sliding the pick-up sideways after hitting a soft sandy part of the shoulder. Addie jumped out of the truck and tried to run into the woods. She stopped and bent over retching until she threw up water and some beer. She glanced up into the woods through glassy watery eyes. Tears streamed down her face as she tied to catch her breath. She squatted down peering straight ahead after she wiped her face. This was her chance. She didn’t have to look back. She knew all three pricks were still in the pick-up. She could hear them talking over the engine and waited for the silent pauses in between conversation to stop before making a mad dash into the woods.          “Oh shit! C’mon grab the rope!”          Frank reached under his seat and pulled out his rifle. He checked to see if it was loaded then ran after Jeff passing Eddie who was already winded.          “Stop runnin’ Addie. There’s nowur fer you ta go.” Frank said loudly but in a calm stern voice.          Addie kept running trying not to trip over her own feet. She was too weak to continue the chase but knew they were going to kill her one way or another if she didn’t get away now. Suddenly she heard a gunshot. She stopped dead but didn’t look back.          “Ahhhhddie...baaaaaby girl, where ya goin’? Come back.” Frank was pleading sarcastically.          Addie turned around. She knew she couldn’t outrun his rifle and didn’t want to chance his aim.          “Please let me go. I promise I won’t say anything to anyone!”          “Eddie needs some, baby. You woke up an disrupted everythin. An now I need some more an so does Jeff. C’mon be a good girl an come back to ma truck. I got sometin that’ll make ya feel reeeeeeal good.” Frank turned to Eddie “Go tie er damn hands behind er back, tight!”          Eddie walked Addie back to the truck holding her shoulders. He pushed her toward Jeff.          “Here, you’ve had dis bitch before. She better behave!”          “Or what? You gonna sit on her?” Jeff looked over at Frank as the two whaled out in laughter.          When they finally reached the sinkhole Addie glanced around. She had been here many times before but remembered the first time most vividly. Her and Jeff had stayed in a tent for a few nights after running away from home; both to get away from drunken stepfathers. Jeff was gentle but persuasive convincing Addie she needed to prove her love. After a few days Jeff wanted to go home where Addie didn’t. He eventually left her sitting on the edge of the sinkhole dangling her feet and watching the tears splash into water like little dew drops falling from a maple leaf.          Addie’s arms were already cramping. She pushed her shoulders back so to avoid the slipknot around her wrists getting tighter. The passenger door opened and Frank pulled her out. Jeff and Eddie had already lit up a joint passing it around. Frank placed the joint in Addie’s mouth. She sucked hard hoping to deaden the pain. Then he shoved something into the opening of his can of beer and told Addie to drink. She took a sip then spit something out of her mouth.          “What was that?”          “THAT was to make ya feel good.” Frank picked it up off the ground.          “Here, take it...eat it...you will like, baby.”          Addie closed her mouth tightly. Jeff and Eddie swallowed some and Frank swallowed the rest. The three chugged down their beers and looked at her. She knew what was next but didn’t know who would begin.          Eddie jerked Addie by the arm and bent her over the tailgate. He pulled down her pants while Frank and Jeff stood on either side to keep her from trying to run. Eddie pushed his shorts down frantically exposing himself. He tried to push himself between her legs, arching backward but couldn’t penetrate.          “Spread your legs!”          Frank and Jeff pulled her feet apart allowing Eddie more room. He rammed himself into her and let out a low grunt. Addie screamed. The side of her face rubbed against the bed of the truck while the tears began to flow. Eddie struggled to stay inside her.          “Hold er still! C’mon man, hold er still, dammit!”          Eddie stopped. He was winded. Jeff pushed him away and Eddie pushed back. He plunged himself in again this time ramming himself so hard with each thrust that Addie could hear her own pelvis thumping into the tailgate. She couldn’t tell what hurt worse: her insides, her hips, her legs, her face, her wrists or her pride. She screamed but they teased and laughed acting like her cries were exciting them more.          Eddie breathed heavily like he was hyperventilating. He began to thrust faster and faster until he finally came. He let out an abrupt shout and slowed down then pulled out quickly and fell to the ground.          “Please, no more. It hurts. Please stop...” Addie cried but no one paid any attention to her words.          Frank unzipped his pants and shoved himself inside her. She kicked her right leg until Jeff went under the tailgate to hold her feet apart and watch. Frank grabbed the back of Addie’s hair and slammed her face into the bed of the truck demanding her to calm down. He held onto her hair while ramming himself in and out. After a few minutes he was done and cued Jeff to come up and take his turn.          Addie stopped crying. She knew no one would hear her screams. She tried to visualize herself in the water floating alone. The sinkhole drifted off into a cloud where no one could follow. She was safe. She was quiet; only the sound of the occasional splash underwater of her feet and hands propelling her body to stay on the surface before holding her breath to float. With every thrust of Jeff’s intrusion Addie imagined another bird flying overhead. But soon the sky began to darken and the birds turned into black spots. The soft sizzling sound returned and Addie knew she was going to pass out again.          She opened her eyes noticing the night sky. The stars were faintly visible due to the moon shining so brightly. She heard snoring and sat up. She was completely naked in the bed of the pick-up next to Frank on a blanket. Her arms were still tied behind her back. She looked around and didn’t see Jeff or Eddie but assumed they were sleeping somewhere close by. She felt dizzy; most likely dehydrated and hungry. She inched along on her butt pulling herself closer to the edge of the tailgate with her feet and legs. She slid off the edge slowly trying not to make any noise.          She walked over to the sinkhole and sat down; giving up the idea of running through the woods at night. Her eyes were heavy and her legs too weak to stand. She knew trying to run would be hopeless. She was five miles and too far away from 261. Even if she could get to the main road there wouldn’t be anyone there to rescue her. She thought about finding a mobile phone. At least one of them had to have a mobile phone. But her heart felt heavy and she wanted everything to stop. She had given up. She wanted to sink to the bottom of the sinkhole and get sucked into one of it’s cavern and shoved into the Gulf of Mexico; a sea for a grave to cradle her limp dead body and finally be able to rest with her daddy.          Addie put both feet into the cool water. She thought about her hands tied around her back. There would be no returning to this world. No amount of guilt could make me turn back. This is my chance. She watched her hair fall around her shoulders. She leaned over far enough allowing her hair to graze the surface. She looked up a the moon, closed her eyes, then scooted herself into the water feet first. After a few moments she kicked her legs wanting to return to the surface. Her lungs were burning for air. Her body twisted in circles and she saw a cavern. She kicked harder but to no avail. She was sinking farther and farther down. Just as her mouth opened sucking in water someone grabbed her hair and began swimming upward. The warm hair hit her face and she coughed, spitting up all the water she had swallowed. The black spots had returned.          Addie opened her eyes but everything was a blur. She heard low voices conversing and knew Jeff and Eddie were still around. Frank put something in her mouth and she did as she was told and swallowed. She laid down in the truck and felt her body drifting again as it did at Eddie’s house. There were clumping and thudding sounds all around her. She was on her side and felt someone untie her arms then turned her to her back while her arms were being tied up above her head. All three were in the bed of the pick-up. One in her mouth, one inside her and one to the side fondling himself. They rotated around taking turns with Addie’s sleeping body.          She dreamt of the autumn trees creating a floating bed of leaves. But a fire began and there was no water to put it out. Addie looked around quickly but there was nothing but empty space. Her floating bed burned while she lie on top. Each yellow, orange and red leaf burst into flames unable to decipher the fire as its color was the same but felt its heat as it began to singe the hairs on her body. The fire began with her feet burning upward between her legs and into her belly. She screamed silently. She couldn’t open her mouth. She couldn’t move. She knew she needed to wake up and begged her eyes to open. She heard chanting inside her head as her body burned.          Suddenly she opened her eyes. It was a gun shot. She was alone in the pick-up but heard stomping and grunting all around her. There was a crashing thud against the side of the truck and that was the last thing she heard. The stomping continued then stopped as another gun shot was fired. Addie’s body was untied and carried out of the pick-up and unto the grass. She was awakened by the sputter of Frank’s engine and the dirt that was flung into her face as he sped off down the dirt road.          “Addie wake up. Addie please wake up. Please be okay. Oh Addie...”          The voice was interrupted by Addie’s eyes opening to dawn.          “Oh my God! Addie, ADDIE its me! Please stay awake! Help is on the way. Your safe Addie. You are safe.”          Addie looked around. She saw the sun’s sparkling rays peaking above the horizon through the trees. She saw the sinkhole a few feet away. She saw the colorful leaves dancing; a performance for her return. She saw the figure of someone behind her in the reflection of the water. She saw a blanket covering the lower half of her body. She saw his arms and hands holding her across her chest. She heard the morning songs of frogs and mockingbirds singing praises. She heard her own breathing. She heard the voice pleading. She tilted her head back to see Jerry’s face wet with tears. She had never been happier to see him. She had never felt safer and more at peace than in his arms at this moment: a late summer morning surrounded by falling leaves. September 22 First Day of Autumn Its official. I welcome the cooler weather. I like it here. Its quiet but not quite like a sea of love. I’m not sure how long I will have to stay but so far everyone has been really nice. I’m on some kind of medicine. It makes my mouth dry but helps my nerves and helps me sleep. I feel calmer. My mom and brothers came to visit yesterday. It was nice to see them. I told my doctor I didn’t want my stepdad allowed in and my mom got a little angry when she first saw me. But then she started to cry and blamed herself. I tried to comfort her and told her it wasn’t her fault. I was scared to mention that she needed help too. And then I didn’t have to. She said she was going to Appalachee Center for Human Services in Tallahassee for an appointment with a therapist. I know we both have a long road of recovery to walk together but for now I have to do this on my own; so my therapist here has said. I miss Jerry and hopefully he will be aloud to visit me soon. Only family members can come see me twice a week. When I get out I will never leave Jerry again. He loves me and I am beginning to love him too. My therapist tells me to try and focus on myself rather than Jerry or my family. He says in order to heal I need to try not to worry about others. That I have co-dependent tendencies; whatever that means. I kinda get it. I asked my therapist what was wrong with me in our last session. He didn’t really answer but said the medication would help. He said something about a mood disorder and a personality disorder of detachment but I didn’t understand it all. I guess someday I will look back at all this differently but for mow I think I will stay here awhile. At least I can see Jerry in my dreams. Goodnight.