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   Darius was very distressed because his fiancée, Ashley, had disappeared on Chicago’s south side a week before their scheduled wedding. He spent weeks looking for her but was unsuccessful, as evidence seemingly suggested that she was kidnapped. However, Darius would soon discover that Ashley's abduction was contrived. 

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    Darius Carter sat alone in his living room as the food that he cooked had gotten cold, and half of the sun was visible on the horizon. He didn’t have much of an appetite even though he spent most of the day passing out flyers and asking questions once again for the umpteenth time. He had walked the streets all day to find any clues that would lead him to the whereabouts of his missing fiancée, Ashley Johnson. She had disappeared two months prior, and their wedding would have been a week after her disappearance.

    He then picked up a bottle of Scotch that was on the living room table and poured himself a drink. Sleeping wasn’t something that he did much since Ashley went missing, and the whiskey helped to ease the pain. Nothing added up or made sense to him because they never had a full-blown argument and rarely disagreed about anything. They were also rising stars in their respective careers―he was a pharmaceutical sales rep, and she was just promoted to store manager of a popular retail chain. They were the perfect couple on the surface and appeared to be happy, or so he thought. However, in the days leading up to her disappearance, she seemed withdrawn and would avoid the subject whenever he’d asked her what was wrong. She would always reassure him—saying that her moodiness had nothing to do with their relationship—or that the pressures of work were getting to her.

    The last night that he saw her, they made crazy, passionate love that continued into the early hours of the morning. As he reflected on that night, it eerily felt like they were seeing each other for the last time. It was as if they were having breakup sex, and he felt powerless because he couldn’t do anything to shake that feeling. She cried awhile after they finished making love and wanted to be alone, and he didn’t pry because he thought it was best that she had her space. He ended up falling asleep on the living room couch while watching television and didn’t wake up until the next day. She had a hair appointment at 8:00 o’clock in the morning, and he hadn’t seen her since the previous night.

    He grabbed his glass and walked toward the front window of their two-bedroom apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. They had a beautiful view of Lake Michigan from the tenth floor, and he stared at the water as the sky had begun to darken. He took a sip of whiskey and continued to gaze at the people exiting the beach. He then reflected upon the police finding Ashley’s abandoned car a couple of days after her disappearance parked in front of a beauty shop that was in the West Chatham strip mall off 83rd and Holland Road. He often wondered how nobody seemed to remember seeing her at the shop that morning even though her car was parked directly in front of it. Her purse, phone and wallet were still in the car on the passenger side floor, and her keys were inside the pouch of the driver side door. Her driver’s license and credit cards were still inside of her wallet, but the police didn’t find any cash. There didn’t appear to be any sign of struggle—no blood, DNA, or fingerprints outside of their fingerprints were found inside of the car. And there were no witnesses, either. Darius was brought in for questioning a little later, but he was never charged with anything.

    He took the last gulp and poured himself another drink. He had come to the conclusion that someone randomly abducted her because she didn’t know a lot of people in Chicago. She was originally from Houston and followed him back to the Midwest after they graduated college together. The perpetrator didn’t try to rob her, so the only other possible scenario was rape, he thought. Even though the thought of someone raping Ashley or her clothes soaked in blood were mental images that were unfathomably horrific, he couldn’t help but wonder about it. He cried for days on end afterward until he became numb, and whiskey had become his new best friend.

    An hour had blown by, and he had finished half of the bottle. He then collapsed on the sofa completely hammered because he had no food in his system to absorb the alcohol. Moments later, his phone rang.

    “What’s up?” he asked, his speech slightly slurred.

    “It’s Sage, honey,” she said. “How are you holding up?”

    “Not good.”

    “Still no word on Ashley, huh?”

    “Nah, I’m afraid not.”

    “Are you okay? Because you sound like you’ve been drinking again.”

    “So what if I have? It’s been hell these last couple of months, Sage.”

    “You really need to pull yourself together, Darius. You’ve been drinking almost every day since she disappeared, and you’re no good to yourself or anyone else when you hit the bottle like this.”

    “I’m a grown-ass man, and I can do whatever the hell I want…”

    “I’m not the enemy, Darius,” she affirmed. “I’m just trying to help you.”

    “There’s nothing to worry about, alright?”

    “Okay, if you say so. Do you want me to come over and keep you company for a little while?”

    “No, I’m good.”

    “Okay…well, call me if you need anything.”

    “I will, and thanks for checking on me. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

    “I understand, Darius. I’m not made of glass, you know.”

    “And I appreciate you, Sage. Talk to you later.”


    He ended the call and got up from the sofa to grab the television remote that was on the dining room table. Sage was his ex-girlfriend from high school, and they broke up right after their first year of college because of the long distance between their respective schools. She went to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa while he opted to go to Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU in Texas. She learned of Ashley’s disappearance through a mutual friend of theirs, and she’s been a comfort to him through his trials and tribulations.

    He turned on the television, and The WGN News at 9 had just begun. He watched with optimism—hoping that the police had cracked the case and found Ashley alive. Twenty minutes had passed, and there wasn’t any news about her at all. In fact, no word was mentioned about her after the first week went by. She was old news, and the police had stopped their search efforts weeks ago but left the case open.

    After the news went off, he started flicking channels. Nothing piqued his interest, so he decided to take a walk down 55th Street. He saw some flyers in the lobby for a comedy show at The Revival right off 55th and Woodlawn. It featured unknown comics from the area, and he needed a good laugh to keep his mind off things.

    He started strolling in the direction of the comedy club and reminisced on the day he first met Ashley. It was at the beginning of sophomore year, and he had decided to kick it at the first pool party of the semester inside of University Square. Seeing her that day was like a breath of fresh air to him―Ashley had on red leisure shorts with the white trim, a white Prairie View t-shirt, and flipflops. She was standing in front of the pool with her golden-brown skin glistening in the sunlight while one of her friends was twerking to the music, and her beautiful smile had captivated him from the start of their budding romance.

    “Hi, I’m Darius,” he said, extending his hand to her.

    “I know who you are,” she said playfully in her southern drawl, and she left him hanging.  “It only took you a year to say something to me.”

    “Yeah, Darius, why are you acting all brand new?” her friend who was twerking said.

    “My bad, ladies,” he was slightly embarrassed. “I didn’t get a chance to hang out too much freshman year, so I’ve been making up for lost time by meeting a lot of different people these past two weeks.”

    “We’re just messing with you, Darius,” Ashley said, finally shaking his hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

    “Likewise, Ashley,” he said.

    “The girl twerking is Sonya, and the reserved one over there who’s too cool for school is Jalisa,” she said.

    “Whatever, Ashley,” Jalisa said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Darius.”

    “Nice to meet you, Jalisa,” he shook her hand.

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Darius,” Sonya mocked Jalisa.

    “Nice to meet you, Sonya,” Darius chuckled.

    “Don’t mind her,” Ashley said. “Her mom probably dropped her on her head as a baby. Come on, let’s take a walk somewhere.”

    “Okay,” he was both excited and nervous.

    “So, what made you finally say hello to me? I know that you’re not shy, Darius.”

    “It’s not that I haven’t noticed you before, Ashley,” he hesitated, “because I know that we had the same marketing class together last semester. It’s that I just got out of something a couple of months ago.”

    “I see that you’re the faithful type,” she started wrapping her braids around her index finger. “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, I’m okay. It was a mutual breakup because we attend different schools. We tried the long-distance thing, but it ended up ruining our relationship.”

    “Where are you from?”


    “And where does your ex go to school?”

    “She goes to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.”

    “Now I understand why you two broke up.”

    He sighed and asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

    “No, I don’t have anyone,” she answered. “I broke up with my boyfriend right before we graduated high school.”

    “So, you haven’t kicked it with anyone at PV?”

    “I’ve been on a few dates, but nothing serious though.”

    “I see,” he pondered. “Sounds like we’re in the same boat, huh?”

    “Yeah, I suppose so,” she smiled at him.

    She paused and asked, “Do you still work at the Walmart in Hempstead?”

    “Nah, I qualified for the Pell Grant this year because my sister just started college at the University of Illinois, so I don’t have to work there anymore.”

    “That’s great…now you’ll have more time to hang out this year.”

    He smiled at her and asked, “Do you want to go to the movies tomorrow afternoon?”

    “Sure, I’d like that.”

    They had been inseparable ever since that fateful day until she vanished at the beginning of the summer, and he loved every waking moment that he spent with her for almost six years. However, her secretive nature was the one and only trait of hers that he disliked. She knew his entire life story, but he knew little about her personal life outside of her rough upbringing in the Third Ward of Houston. He respected her privacy, but he had wished that she were more open.

    He reached the theater about twenty minutes later and was just in time for the last show of the night. He bought a ticket inside and went to the concession stand to buy a Corona and pretzels. He was still buzzed from drinking a half-bottle of whiskey even though he walked a half-mile on a balmy and breezy Wednesday night.

    There was one more seat in the back of the auditorium after he bought his beer and pretzels as the show was completely crowded on this Wednesday night. He was able to blend in without attracting attention to himself, and for a moment, he’d had forgotten how miserable he was.

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