Samantha’s monsters aren't under the bed; they’re the people she calls Mom and Dad.
She makes it out alive, her sanity barely intact.
She creates a new past that fools everyone, including herself.
A life filled with love and security teeters on its base of lies
When it all comes crumbling down, will Samantha make it out alive?
February – 1986
Samantha tied the white apron around her waist. The smell
of grease made her nostrils flare. Brenda nudged her. “You ready for the
“Sure am,” Samantha replied,
forcing cheer into her voice. Less than two weeks at this job and already she
hated it. Still, this job was better than no job at all. And anything beat what
she’d left behind.
Stan pulled on his greasy apron.
He leaned close to Samantha, his cigar breath cutting off her air. “All you
gotta do is give the customers that pretty smile and they don’t give a damn if
you feed them garbage.”
Samantha backed away from the
counter. “I just want to do my job.”
“Baby, you ain’t gotta do
nothing more than prance around as far as I’m concerned.”
Brenda groaned. “Leave her
Stan snorted. “You’re jealous
‘cause you don’t get the kinda tips she does.”
Samantha’s stomach lurched. Why
did everyone make an issue out of her looks? Why couldn’t she blend into the
woodwork, be the ugly duckling no one noticed? She took another step away from
Stan and said, “Shouldn’t we get ready to open now?”
“Whatever you want, baby,” Stan
said through his leering grin.
Samantha escaped to the dining
area. Her skin felt hot and the desire to flee had her trembling. Brenda
approached, and Samantha turned her back so her coworker wouldn’t see the tears
shining in her eyes.
“Don’t let him get to you,”
Brenda said. She gave Samantha’s arm a light squeeze, and added, “You just need
to put him in his place, so he’ll give you a little respect. Not that Stan has
much of that to offer.”
Samantha turned and smiled,
despite the fact that her skin crawled beneath Brenda’s touch. She ignored the
weakness in her legs. No way could she collapse here, now. In need of a
distraction, she busied herself arranging the salt and pepper shakers on the
Brenda popped open a metal
napkin holder and began stuffing it full. “So how come you’re wasting your time
working in this hellhole truck stop, anyway?”
“Same as anyone else. To make
“Hell, with your looks, you
could make a whole lot more money doing any number of things in any number of
Samantha’s cheeks grew hot.
“Looks don’t always matter.”
“Maybe not, but it sure does
help! Besides, you’re a hell of a lot younger than me. What are you, eighteen,
nineteen? Don’t you want to go to college or something?”
Samantha dodged the question
about her age, saying simply, “I can’t afford college.”
“Won’t your parents help you?”
Samantha’s heart pounded wildly.
She couldn’t think back. She’d gotten away. “They’re dead.” The words popped
out, surprising her.
Brenda blanched. “I’m sorry.”
“Do you have any family around?”
Family. To most, the word implied happiness and security. To her,
it stood for everything opposite. “No.”
“That’s awful,” Brenda said.
“You’re all alone?”
Samantha moved through the small
dining area putting placemats on the tables. “Yeah.” More alone than Brenda
Stan stepped out of the kitchen.
He glared at Brenda, who had abandoned her task with the napkins. “I don’t pay
you to stand around gossiping,” he said.
Brenda rolled her eyes. “Yes,
“Finish loading the napkins. We
open in five minutes.”
“Don’t be a wise ass, Brenda.
You can easily be replaced.”
Samantha kept her distance.
Though grateful for the reprieve, she also felt a twinge of guilt. Brenda had
always been nice to her. She hated having to lie. But she’d had no choice. She
could never tell anyone the truth. Never.
A few minutes later, the front
door swung open and the first customers of the day strolled in. Samantha
welcomed the distraction. At least work kept her occupied, leaving her little
time to think. She couldn’t think. She had to let it go. In this new life, none
of it had ever happened.
She needed to be with people, to
keep her mind off herself. Yet, sometimes the way men looked at her made her
feel totally exposed. She didn’t know what she wanted anymore. Being alone was
horrible. Being with people could be worse.
Samantha moved to the counter,
where a burly, dark-haired man with a bushy beard sat. “What can I get for
you?” she asked.
The man looked her up and down,
his mouth partially open and moist. “Are you on the menu?” he asked.
Samantha’s stomach twisted into
a tight knot. She ignored his comment and said, “Would you like coffee to
“Sure,” he said. “And how about
you sit here and have a cup with me?”
“I can’t do that.”
“Then how about dinner tonight?”
His eyes bore into her. Samantha
had to force air into her lungs. “I… I’ll get your coffee.”
Her hands trembled as she
reached for the pot. She took several deep breaths, talking to herself the
entire time. She had nothing to be afraid of. This man couldn’t hurt her.
She carried the coffee pot back
to the man at the counter. “Here you go,” she said as she filled his cup.
“Would you like to order breakfast?”
“Pancakes and sausage,” he said.
“Now, how about tonight?”
“Thank you, but I can’t. I’ll
get your order.”
Samantha escaped to the kitchen
and gave Stan the order. The knot in her stomach twisted tighter as she walked
back out to the dining area. The man kept grinning at her through his bushy beard.
She tried not to meet his eyes.
The morning stretched on
endlessly. Samantha’s thoughts kept straying back to a time not long ago. Her
father’s voice echoed in her head. But he wasn’t here. She was alone now.
Samantha shuddered. Don’t think about it. Pretend it never
Samantha felt the woman’s eyes following her. This was
the third day in a row the woman had come here for lunch. She barely ate. She
Samantha couldn’t figure it out.
Why would that type of woman even come here? She always dressed impeccably. Her
clothes probably had designer labels, though Samantha wouldn’t know the
difference. Her voice was soft and rich. She pronounced every word, every
syllable, distinctly. She could surely afford to eat in a much nicer place.
The woman leaned back in her
chair, now openly staring. Samantha approached, check in hand, wishing she
could crawl beneath a table.
“Can I get you anything else?” she asked.
“Can you sit a moment?” the
woman asked. More of a statement than a question.
Samantha shifted uncomfortably.
“I’m not allowed to –”
“Have you ever considered
The woman smiled. “My name is
Candace Wynn. I’m a modeling agent.”
“Oh.” The woman’s smile seemed
genuine. Disarming. Samantha relaxed a bit.
“I’m looking for a new face,”
Candace said. “And I believe yours is exactly the one I’ve been searching for.”
“I’ve never modeled. I don’t
know anything about it.”
“You’re a natural.”
Modeling. Using her looks to
make money. The looks that her mother had so often called a curse. “I don’t
“Hey, baby,” a man with one
missing front tooth called. “I’m starving over here. You gonna take my order or
Samantha’s cheeks flushed. “I’ll
be right with you.”
Candace said, “You can’t tell me
you enjoy working here.”
“No, I don’t. But I’ve never
modeled and –”
“Trust me, you’ll catch on
The toothless man whistled.
“Let’s go! I don’t have all afternoon.”
Candace handed Samantha a white
business card with delicate gold print. “This is my office address and phone
number. What time do you get out of here?”
“Perfect. Be at my office at
Candace placed a twenty dollar
bill on the table and stood. “Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Let me
worry about that. Come in. We’ll talk.”
Unsure what else to do, Samantha
nodded. She watched Candace Wynn stride confidently out the door. She wanted
that same confidence for herself. But modeling?
The toothless man whistled
again. “Sweetheart, you’re great to look at, but I really need some food here.”
Samantha shook off the fear –
and the hope. She forced her feet forward, apologized, and took the man’s
Modeling. She couldn’t escape
her looks. Maybe it was time she used them for her benefit.
May – 1991
Thunder crashed angrily outside Samantha’s bedroom
window. She sat motionless, as if the slightest rise and fall of each breath
would cause the lightning to strike her. Moments passed. Maybe hours. She
wasn’t sure. Lately time ran together in a jumble of emptiness.
Gradually, the thunder subsided.
The quiet made it too easy to think, which she didn’t like to do. Thinking gave
the memories she’d buried deep room to force their way into her consciousness.
She pushed them back, almost physically, to the corners of her mind.
She uncurled herself from the
tight ball she’d wrapped herself in. Rising from the bed, she stepped slowly
toward the brass floor mirror. Her blonde hair hung in loose curls past her
shoulders. Her large amber eyes glistened. Dark lashes, long and thick, fluttered
above them. Delicate features gave her face a kind of china doll beauty.
Stunning, she was often called. But what did it matter?
Discouraged, she walked away
from her reflection. No one understood her depression. After all, she had everything
a woman could want. Only twenty-two years old, she was a successful model
married to an incredibly handsome and equally successful advertising agent. So
what was her problem? Why did her moods change drastically from one moment to
How could she explain a past
that never happened was now haunting her?
The sound of the doorbell broke
into her thoughts. She chose to ignore it, a habit she’d been practicing
increasingly more often. She turned back to the mirror, studying herself more
intensely. She saw the sparkling amber eyes looking back. But within those eyes
she saw something no one else did. Emptiness. Sadness. A fear that gripped her
so tightly she couldn’t breathe.
She jerked away from her
reflection. Memories flashed like ten-second movie blips. Images. Voices. Never
anything specific. Just broken pieces of a distorted puzzle. Her past. It
forever haunted her. But remember, it isn’t real.