Category Archives: Announcements

The Future of Blogs

Times are changing! And so is the online culture. Our culture seeks quickly consumable information, and a blog doesn’t always fit neatly into that space. I see more of a move to platforms like Instagram for quick inspiration and short videos, rather than lengthy exhortations.

So I’m taking a play from my millennial daughter’s playbook, and will be shifting focus from a weekly blog to daily/every other day shorter, more quickly consumable bites of encouragement across my social media platforms. You’ve seen this already in the form of the Faith Memes I just rolled out. I’ve been getting a great response, which tells me I’m heading in the right direction.

I’d like your help to determine the future of blogs. I’ve set up a poll on my Facebook Author Page. Select your preference there – Do you want to see the blogs go away entirely and have website posts focus on announcements and events, or do you want to keep seeing them, just much less frequently? The poll will stay active for a week, so please go and vote! Your opinion is so important, because this is all for YOU!

On the matter of Faith Memes, I’d love for you to share your story or need for encouragement with me, so I can make a meme for you! See the Faith Memes page to make a submission. It’s quick and easy, and will always remain confidential.

Be blessed,
C.K.

Faith Memes Launch

I’m SO excited to share the launch of Faith Memes with you! I want to hear your story. I want to know what kind of encouragement you need or if there’s something fantastic God’s been doing in your life that you want to celebrate.

I will turn it into a faith-based meme and share it on my social media platforms. Don’t worry, whatever you share will be held in confidence and your name will never be attached to the meme. I’ll respond back when I create one for your story so you know it belongs to you. Not only will you be blessed by it, but a piece of your story can touch so many other lives.

I’ll be using Instagram Stories as the main platform for these, so please visit my instagram page to follow me there! I’ll be including short video snipits on my story with some of the faith memes. You can also find a short video here, which will give you a little more information.

I hope you’ll be a part of this journey. Visit the Faith Memes Page to make a submission. It’s quick and easy, and you can share it with all your friends!

Be blessed,
C.K.

What’s Next You Ask?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I’m working on next. I’m happy to throw out a few teasers for those of you interested. There are two books I’m working on…

The first is a very special non-fiction project. I’m not ready yet to say more about what this is, but as soon as I am, you’ll be the first to know! It’s going to be, well, out there. Let’s just say, I’m already predicting it will be the most difficult book I will ever have the privilege to write.

Robert Downey Jr.
Photo: projectfandom.com

The other is my second fiction thriller, What Lies in Wait. It will be a psychological thriller and, in the spirit of the twists I love, I’m going for a last chapter gasp in this one. You may even meet up with a character or two from Stolen. Another teaser? Ok, why not. One of the main characters, a work from home Psychiatrist, is being modeled after our very own Robert Downey Jr. One might say I have a small dream of him playing this role in the movie someday. I’m targeting to have this book out Fall 2019.

Be blessed,
C.K.

The Waiting Room Released Today!

The Waiting Room is now available for purchase on Amazon
Available in Paperback and eBook

If you’re in need of a miracle, interceding for a loved one, or believing in God to move a mountain, getting on your knees is the easy part. The hard part is waiting. Not seeing the answers we long for can leave us feeling depressed and even doubtful. We begin fixing our eyes on the world around us, rather than the One who made the world.

Whether it’s been a day or a decade, don’t lose hope. You serve a mighty God, capable of doing immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Join me as we dive into God’s Word for insights and reassurance during your wait. He has a plan for your life, and His timing is always perfect.

First Things First

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Roomavailable for pre-order on Amazon. The book releases on June 18th.

Being on your knees and sending your prayers up to the Father of the heavenly lights is the most important thing you can be doing. But let’s be real. It’s hard. Especially when it’s for people or situations near and dear to our hearts. I know firsthand how it feels to be praying fervently for something and watching it unfold in the complete opposite direction. Not only is that crushing to see, but it threatens to deflate our faith like air from a blown tire. When those things happen, you’ve got to decide to see with spiritual eyes rather than earthly eyes. You have to get out your patch kit, plug the hole that’s leaking faith, and keep moving forward. That means you keep getting on your knees and resolve to keep bringing your requests to God, despite what your earthly circumstances are telling you.

I know I just made that sound easy, but I also know the reality that it can be a daily struggle. The writings in this book were born out of some of my personal struggles, so I want to take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge wherever you’re at.

So, how do we move past these emotions? This first step is all about reminding our hearts of some very important things that give us the right perspective while we’re in the waiting room. Let’s look at a few of those.

There is an Order to Things

God’s vantage point is well beyond ours. If you see the trees, He sees the planet. If you see the planet, He sees the galaxies. There isn’t anything that escapes His view, and there is no element of anything that exists – past, present, or future – that He doesn’t consider. God operates in an entirely different dimension than we do. In His world, there is no dimension of time or space. It’s all fluid and He sees beyond the boundaries in which we tend to think.

You and I may have trouble grasping all of that, and although we may feel uncomfortable, God is perfectly comfortable and supernaturally capable. Because of all He sees and knows, He is uniquely and solely qualified to set the order of things that will maximize the glory for His Kingdom. He knows what you need and when you need it. He knows what every person needs and when they need it. All of those things fit together like one, glorious cosmic puzzle, and He drew the picture of that puzzle long before you or I even existed. Trust if God is asking you to wait just a little bit longer, He has a very good reason, and He will give you everything you need to be comfortable and at peace during your wait.

He’s a Heart God

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the promise we’re looking to receive. It becomes our single focus, and obtaining it is the culmination of what we call victory. We have to consider that God’s definition of victory might be a little different than ours. What I’m about to say isn’t always what we want to hear, but the sooner we grasp it, the sooner (I believe) we can stop wandering around in the desert, like the Israelites did for forty years (Exodus).

The wait is not always about what we’re getting, but what God is doing in us and who we’re becoming while we’re waiting.

God is much more concerned with who you are than what you have.

Don’t get me wrong – the things you want could very well be God-given promises having great significance for the Kingdom. But I don’t think it’s worth as much to God if you are lost in it along the way. God tells us He works all things for the good of those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). You might be praying for physical healing and miss the opportunity for spiritual or emotional healing along your journey. Think about it this way – if God heals your physical body, you sure would have a great testimony to share the power of Christ with others. But if you’re an emotional mess inside as a result of the wait, how powerful will that testimony be for the Kingdom?

Consider this. The promise God wants to bless you with may not rest in what you receive at the end of your wait, but what happens inside of you during it.

* End of Excerpt *

Be blessed,
C.K.

Surrender

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Room, available for pre-order on Amazon. Only eBook is available for pre-order, but both eBook and paperback will be available for purchase when the book releases on June 18th.


“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-45

I imagine the title alone may have sent waves of discomfort through you. It sure did to me for a number of years. As Christians, we like to sing about surrender, but walking that talk is a lot harder than it sounds on Sunday morning. If we look to Merriam-Webster to help us define surrender, we find the following:

“a: to yield to the power, control, or possession of another or b:to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.”

When we surrender to God, we’re giving Him authority to exercise His sovereign judgment in our lives. To clarify, this isn’t God overruling our ability to have free will. It’s us giving to God what we think is best, in return for what He knows is best.

If you have kids, particularly teenagers, then you’re well aware of a thing I like to call the “Omni Effect.” The Omni Effect is the result of a child turning the age at which they know the answer to every question ever asked. They no longer need the wisdom of their parents because they’re smarter and far wiser in the ways of the world, despite experiencing only a fraction of what their parents have. They know what’s best, so they feel they should be able to do what they like. They believe the world has changed so dramatically, that we, as parents, couldn’t possibly be smart enough to guide and educate them.

Are you parents out there rolling your eyes yet? I thought so. This is a pretty easy concept for us to grasp, right? What if we applied this to our all-knowing God? News flash: we are those kids. We’re the ones who have experienced only a fraction of what God has. I don’t think we could even call it a fraction. That would be far too generous. He knows all because He created all. The Bible tells us every day was written before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). He’s the only One able to provide perfect guidance in perfect timing.

Perhaps the greatest testimony of surrender happens when we, amidst the charge of the enemy, lay down our shield, get on our knees, and lift our hands. It’s not a white flag we hold, but the offering of our will to God, whatever the outcome may be. To give yourself wholly and completely to the will of God, without regard to your own personal desires, is the epitome of surrender.

It’s also terrifying.

Why is it so scary? Why is there fear in surrender? We fall into the trap of fear when one of two things happen. The first is we believe the lies of the enemy. Satan doesn’t want you to be close to God. In fact, he wants nothing but misery and death for you (John 10:10). He’s going to whisper lies into your ear about why what God wants for you isn’t going to make you happy. He’s going to stir confusion and doubt. There’s a way to combat that. Fall on the Word. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Search the Scriptures on what God has to say about your situation and who He created you to be.

The second reason we fall into fear is because we don’t know, or choose not to rely on, the character of our God. Do you know Him well enough to know He loves you beyond measure (Ephesians 3:17-19); that He, Himself is love (1 John 4:8)? Do you trust His heart enough to know He longs to bless you and give you every good thing (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:9-11)? It’s impossible for God to lie and it’s impossible for God to do anything outside the character of goodness. For these reasons, you can trust Him completely.

It’s a spiritual truth that you can never out-give God. If God’s asking you to give Him something, don’t place such a high value on it and cling to it for fear of losing the joy or security you think it brings. When you surrender it to God, you’ll find He returns something of even greater value. As I’ve often told my daughter, doing what’s asked of us isn’t the extent of obedience. God desires our right attitudes as well. The attitude of surrender should be one of prostration in the presence of an all-knowing God, comforted in the assurance that He knows what you don’t. He’ll only ask of you what He knows will ultimately lead to both your blessing and His glory. In keeping with our spiritual truth, God will never ask you for something and then return something less than you gave to Him.

Surrendering doesn’t make you weak. It’s what you do when you are weak, so God can be your strength. However difficult this may be for you, take your treasure – your money, time, job, relationship, food, home, hobbies, whatever He’s asking for – and lay it at His feet. He’ll return what you never thought possible, including freedom. Don’t be bound in slavery to the things you refuse to let go of out of fear. It’s keeping you from a greater blessing and a beautiful display of His Glory.

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Be blessed,
C.K.

Stolen Book Review

A book reviewer reached out and asked if she could do a review on Stolen, as she found the premise interesting. Of course, I said yes. Her review was posted today, and all I can say is, wow. I was brought to tears over how accurately she captured my heart for this message – really, for all the novels I intend to write. I truly appreciate the time Robin Prater invested, and how beautifully she captured the underlying essence of Stolen. Don’t worry – there are no spoilers.

Click Here to Read Robin Prater’s Review of Stolen

Stolen Press Release

I’m excited to share the formal press release that went out this morning on the release of Stolen. The release was sent to:

        – 6000+ National Media Outlets
        – National Industry Magazines
        – Apple News, Google News, and Bing News
        – Wisconsin News Outlets

LINK TO PRESS RELEASE

I’ll be sharing links on all my social media pages, and I’m looking for your help to spread the news! Please use the shareable icons at the top of the press release for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to share it. Let’s get this out there to people who might need the message!

Be blessed,
C.K.

Stolen Launch Countdown

To celebrate the launch of my fiction thriller, Stolen, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book every day until it goes live on Tuesday, when it’s available on Amazon. I can’t post anything toward the end of the book, or I’ll give away the twists and the ending, but I hope you enjoy these excerpts as a small taste of what’s to come. Check it out!


Launch Day -1 (Monday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen

She lay on the floor as he loomed over her. It was amazing to her how many thoughts she had in the short time she was staring death in the face. A flood of memories assaulted her, like waves crashing on the shore. They were momentary flashes of precious times tucked away in her subconscious, programed to emerge upon critical failure.
        How odd, she thought, how the mind works. She wondered how it decided which memories deserved center stage during the final act. Pictures passed through her mind and stopped abruptly on her dad. The last known image of him in her brain. The one from television. The one of him crying. She too, closed her eyes and cried, not wanting to see the final act of her attacker’s rage.

Tomorrow is Launch Day! Click here to go to Amazon
and order your copy now. It will be shipped or delivered electronically tomorrow!

Launch Day -2 (Sunday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen

The brilliant lights seemed to dance in the background of her memories, as she lay replaying better times in her head. When Star finally opened her eyes again, there were no more brilliant lights. Her prison was dark and quiet. The man was gone. She wondered what time it was, and if it were day or night. She no longer had the shackle on, so she could get up and turn the light on if she wanted. As funny as it sounded in her own mind, a part of her was afraid to turn the light on. She was afraid to get a good look at her prison. And her isolation.
        Star sunk into the mattress. There was really only one spot to comfortably sleep, which was right in the middle where the mattress sunk in to form to a person-like mold. She lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling, feeling grateful that her stomach was settling. It was enough to allow her what felt like one of the first moments of clarity since she’d been in there.
        She lay there thinking. You’re going to get out of here and then what? What’s your plan? Maybe this is your second chance. So what are you going to do with it? I’m going to stay sober. No more drugs. I’ll get a job. A real job. I’ll get a place of my own too. Maybe Lacey and I could get a new place together. Maybe we could even go to school.
        She found herself grinning, thinking of what it would be like for her and Lace to be traipsing across some college campus with backpacks, notebooks, and iced coffees. It would be just like they see on TV. She smiled again, imagining how proud her dad would be of her. She only floated on that idea for a moment before her smile faded, and her heart hurt again. What would he think of her if he knew what she had become? Would he ever feel the same about her? She closed her eyes and tried to push away the intrusive thoughts which filled her now overly crowded mind.

***

Hope. It was all she had. She would either die in this prison, or she would live. A few days ago, she wanted to die. Now, she felt differently. She wanted a chance. She closed her eyes and made a silent promise to herself that she would accept wherever this prison brought her – good or bad. She had to accept the consequences – life or death. But she wanted life.

Launch Day -3 (Saturday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen

Whether he realized it or not, Teddy was good at flirting. He made an art out of displaying his boyish grins at just the right time. She never used to look at Teddy that way but, once they got to high school, she found herself feeling jealous of the attention he got from the other girls. It made her realize she saw something in him that was more than just a friend. She wanted to tell him, but never found the right time. That’s what she told herself, anyway.
        Headlights caught her attention as the large bus rounded the corner a few blocks down. Seeing the bus in sight made it feel colder, and she bounced up and down trying to warm herself. The sound of the air brakes on the bus silenced the eerie quietness of the morning, and Sarah made the four steps into the bus two, as she escaped from the cold. She looked across the empty seats as she dropped her change into the meter, then selected a seat in the middle. The rest of the stops were empty, so the bus made a straight mile and a half run to the school. She smiled politely at the bus driver and bounced down the steps and onto the pavement. The wind whipped up her skirt once more, and she tightened her grip on her backpack as she ran across the courtyard to the front doors.
        Relieved to reach them, anticipating a rush of warmth, Sarah pulled on the handle only to find it locked. Pressing her forehead against the glass door, she peered inside, hoping for signs of life to open the door. Nothing. No one. Sarah sighed, and decided she would need to run around to the other side of the school and try the side doors. Those were closer to the gym and weight room where they typically practiced, so she was hopeful someone would be there. She reached the doors and gave them a tug, but they were locked too. She grimaced at the thought of having to stand out here for another thirty minutes. Resigned to her wait, she looked around for any kind of shelter.
        There, along the wall of the school she saw a girl. She was sitting inside one of the window wells, so Sarah walked toward her. As she got closer, she thought better of herself, but it was too late. The girl had already seen her and was waving for her to come over. Sarah couldn’t ignore her now, so she continued over. Sarah stood, looking down into the window well at the girl in a skirt and heels. She wasn’t in any school uniform, so Sarah guessed her uniform was, well, professional. She had heard some teachers talking about the prostitution problem happening not far from the school, worried the teenage boys would get enticed by it.
        “Hi!” the girl said with a smile. “You can come in here with me if you want.”
        Sarah looked at her, confused.
        “It’s warm in here. See the vent?” The girl pointed to the air vent by her feet. She made Sarah slightly uncomfortable, but the idea of standing in the cold for any longer made her even more uncomfortable, so she stepped inside and sat on the ground. She was right. The vent was pumping out gloriously warm air. Pleasant goosebumps ran up and down Sarah’s body as she moved her hands and feet closer to the vent. The two girls sat without speaking.
        Sarah tried not to stare in the girl’s direction but couldn’t help noticing her shiny necklace. It was a silver chain with a shiny, silver dolphin. After a few minutes, Sarah asked, “What are you doing in here?”
        “Probably the same thing you’re doing in here. It’s warmer in here than it is out there.”
        Sarah smiled. “Yeah, but I mean, what are you doing out here?” she said, trying to clarify. “Do you go to school here?”
        “I used to, but I dropped out a few years ago. I’d ask you the same thing, but I can see from your cheerleading outfit you go here.”
        “Dance team,” Sarah clarified. “I’m part of the dance team. The cheerleaders are too stuck up.” The girls exchanged a giggle and let the silence resume for a while.
        “Are you a hooker?” Sarah asked, and then regretted her question.
        Still staring down at the vent, the girl replied, “Yes. But we don’t call it that. People call us ladies of the night. Sounds more, well, like it’s something it’s not.”
        Sarah’s cheeks flushed at the girl’s candor, and she immediately tried to change the subject. “I’m a freshman. It’s my first year here.”
        The girl ignored Sarah’s comment and continued. “I don’t do this because I want to. It’s because I have to. It’s not glamorous or nothing, but it’s a way to pay for food and get a place to crash at sometimes.”
        Sarah was now feeling increasingly uncomfortable and was elated to hear one of her teammates yelling to her from an open door. “Come on! Coach is here!”
        Sarah gave the girl an apologetic look and excused herself from the warming well. She trotted quickly to the door, giving one look back at the girl who was watching her run away. Sarah wasn’t sure what she thought of all of that but couldn’t imagine making that kind of choice.

Launch Day -4 (Friday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen

Star wouldn’t cry. Not now. She had to be strong. She had to press past the hopelessness she felt and try again to fight. Not today, but soon. In order to do that, she had to get past this addiction. Other people went into rehab. She figured this was her rehab. It just wouldn’t come with medication and a therapist. She would have to do this the hard way. It had been at least a week. Maybe longer. How much longer would she really have to feel this way? Star tried to focus on the pain in her ankle as a way to distract herself from the other physical symptoms she was feeling.
        “No,” Star said quietly.
        At this point, Jack was already reaching into the bag for the drugs. He stopped, his hand still in the bag, and looked up.
        “What did you say?” Jack looked surprised.
        Star adjusted her position on the bed, fighting the pain from her ankle and hand, bringing herself to a more upright position.
        “I said no,” Star repeated, a little louder this time. “I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to need it anymore.”
        Jack dropped whatever was in his hand and pulled his arm slowly from the bag, and stood to an upright position.
        Star sat as tall as she could, while Jack stood looking at her. In those few moments, Star noted a shift in Jack’s face. Almost a softening.
        “I think you’re going to make it,” Jack said with a smile.
        “What do you mean?”
        “You’re not like the other girls. You’re stronger. You’re going to make it. Those other girls just weren’t strong enough. I tried to help them, but they didn’t want to be saved.”
        Star’s mind reeled. “Other girls?”
        Jack ignored her question and returned to the bags on the floor.
        “What happened to the other girls?”

Pre-order your paperback or eBook copy of Stolen today, and it will be shipped or delivered electronically on Tuesday, May 14. Click here to go to Amazon.

Launch Day -5 (Thursday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen

Part of her wanted to go talk to Teddy. He always knew what to say to make her feel better, but a small part of her resented him for that. His words of hope. She knew he meant well, but hope had eluded her over this last year, and the last thing she wanted to hear was any more religious rhetoric. He would tell her that everything happens for a reason and would make her a better person.
        Sarah snorted angrily and wondered what exactly a better person was, anyway. Better than who? Didn’t we all have our mud? Mud can come in various shades but, at the end of the day, it’s all the same. Sarah drew in a deep breath and tried not to think about the funeral. She tried not to think about walking up to the casket. That cold, dark box containing a dead body on display. She shook her head in disgust at whoever originally thought that would be a good idea.
        The counselor had assured her it was for closure. She assured him she already knew her mom was dead. He didn’t think that was funny, but neither did she.
        She had to stop thinking about it. She couldn’t let that level of pain in. It was too much. It was all too much. The thought that had been circling around in her mind for the last month was coming to rest hard on her now. She stared ahead, lost in thought. With a single tear running down her cheek, she got up, opened the closet door, and pulled out her backpack. She spent the next hour carefully selecting only things she thought she would really need, then sat at her desk to write her dad a note. It felt like an impossible task. What would she say? What could she say?

***

Sarah laid the jersey on top of her backpack and walked over to his window. “Do you ever wonder where you’d be right now if your dad was still alive?”
        The question seemed to catch Teddy by surprise. He stood silently, trying to process the intent of her question. Even though Teddy was a good-sized kid who was often mistaken for being tough and intimidating, he was really quite sensitive when it came to people’s emotions and needs. Sarah understood the sensitivity of her question, and she also knew she was one of the only people who could ask him that without him feeling attacked or offended. Sarah continued to stare out the window, not making any eye contact with him, giving him the space he needed to think.
        “Um…” Teddy stalled. “I… I don’t know. I guess maybe I’d still be here, playing football and stuff.”
        “What about the God stuff?” Sarah said, her back still to him.
        “What’s wrong?” Teddy asked. “You seem off. Are you okay?”
        “I haven’t been okay for a long time now.” Sarah could feel the emotion welling in her throat but pushed it down. “But that doesn’t matter. I was just curious.” She turned to face him. “You’re in such a good place right now. All that bad stuff that happened to you… is the God stuff the reason you’re doing good now, or not?”
        Teddy stood searching her face, looking for anything to help him with his answer.
        “I’m not sure how to answer that but, I guess so. Yeah.”
        Sarah smiled at him, seemingly happy with his answer, but struggling to figure out the mess going on inside of her. She wanted Teddy’s answer to be her answer, but she didn’t think it could be that simple.
        “Seriously, are you okay? What can I do to help you?”
        “I have to go. I just wanted to say hi.” Sarah pushed her way past him toward the door, then stopped and turned to him again. “And Teddy, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate our friendship. You’ve been there for me when no one else was. With you, I could always just be myself. You’re really a great guy, and I’m so glad you’re happy now.” Sarah moved toward him and threw her arms around his shoulders, giving him a tight hug. Then she let go and hurried out the door and down the stairs.
        “Wait!” Teddy called after her. “I feel like something’s wrong. What’s wrong? Talk to me.”
        “Sorry, I have to go. I’m okay. I’m going to be okay.” Sarah couldn’t bring herself to look back. She hurried through the kitchen and out the side door. She made it look like she was heading back to her house, in case he was watching. She assumed he would be. Once she knew she was out of sight, she walked around the other side of her house and headed down the street toward the bus station. She still had Teddy’s jersey in her hand. She pulled it up to her nose and drew in the smell. Tears ran down her cheeks and wet the jersey. The wind picked up, and she shivered as she tightened her coat around her.

Launch Day -6 (Wednesday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen

Star had no idea if her screams were audible or only locked away in her head. Her vision was blurred from his punch, and she fought to clear her head as she pulled herself up and onto her hands and knees.
        The man grabbed her forcefully by her long, black hair, pulling a chunk out from the roots. With one hand clutching her hair and the other under her arm, he dragged her to the open side door of the van.
        Star kicked her feet and screamed, working desperately to pry his fingers from her hair. When they got to the van, she grabbed the doorframe, trying to resist his push. Fighting to get past the searing pain on her scalp, she struggled to keep her grip as he shoved her inside.
        The back of the van was completely empty and stripped to the metal. Star grabbed on to the front passenger seat, pulling herself up and away from him. As the man reached for her again, she kicked back with all her might, sending her 3-inch stiletto into his upper thigh.
        The man shrieked. Enraged, he grabbed her ankle, pulled her back onto the floor, and delivered another swift punch to the side of her face.
      Star couldn’t open her eyes, but could feel the man tightening something around her wrists and ankles. When he was done securing her, he slammed the door shut, got into the van, and took off.
      The fight for consciousness clouded her sense of reality and regret painted her thoughts – for which particular thing, she wasn’t even sure where to start. Which was the first of her awful decisions that made all the others follow behind, forcing her down this fast-paced highway of remorse? How did this seventeen-year-old Midwest-friendly girl end up a nineteen-year-old prostitute, hooked on heroin? In her altered state, the audacity of it almost made her laugh out loud. It certainly wasn’t funny. It was the kind of laughter you experience when all the other emotions fail you.
        Two years on the streets had taught her how to appear hard on the outside, but that never really caught up on the inside.

***

Star lay on the cold van floor trying to shake off the memories. She wasn’t sure what was more painful – her present circumstances or how she got here. Despite the heroin pulsing through her veins, the pain still made her head throb. She opened her eyes long enough for the blur of the lights going by to nauseate her stomach. Maybe it was better not to fight. She closed her eyes, feeling herself fade into the blackness.
        Star came to again and could no longer feel the motion under her. They had stopped. She opened her eyes to a blurred view of the ceiling, and tried to make sense of where she was. It wasn’t the van. It was dark, and a strong, musty smell filled her nose. As she rolled onto her side, she was quickly reminded of her raw scalp. She lifted her hand to run her fingers tenderly over the wound. She could feel the blood, but it was dried. How long had she been lying there? Star let out a quiet moan as she tried to sit up. Pain shot up her right leg as the sharp edge of the metal clamp around her ankle dug deep into her skin. She reached down and surveyed the cold metal with her hands, feeling chain links extending to the wall beside the bed. Star slid her hands around, feeling a tattered box spring and metal frame beneath her. There was a blanket on the bed and one small pillow. All of it smelled like a damp cellar.
        Her mind felt clearer, but her physical body was struggling to catch up. She tried to come out of her fog, blinking to clear her vision and see through the blackness. As she did, both terror and adrenaline brought her to attention when she realized she wasn’t alone.


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