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First (As In Original)

For Sarah

“Why do you care?”

Gretta stared down at her folded hands, voice not directed at the recorder for the first time since we started talking.

Then piercing dark eyes lifted again to meet my gaze full on. “Why do you care? Men like you do these things to girls like me.”

The easy answer would have been to say that the thought of so many women and children trapped in that kind of slavery in the world made me sick. While true, those eyes knew there was more to it than that. An American man, in her experience, did not care just because the thought made him sick. In my case…

Every rule of interviewing held in high regard demanded I take back control. I was supposed to be directing the conversation, asking the questions and waiting for answers. However, trust is something I value far more than the rules. If they don’t trust me, what is the point?

I said nothing right away – just leaned down into my briefcase. Left side, still in its pink and white hearted frame. It went everywhere with me, but I never pulled it out. This was a first.

It slid easily across the table, seconds away from knocking the recorder off. She caught it before that happened, her hands apart for the first time today, and time stilled while she stared down. One single tear fell down a suddenly dulled gray cheek.

“She is beautiful.” She set the picture down. “Is she your daughter?”

“My niece.”

It was my turn to hold my hands in my lap. Finding out what had happened to Sarah had become my life, after my job. It was also the end of my relationship with the one woman I had ever been able to see myself married to. Translated? I had a lot at stake.

“How do you know she did not run away?” Gretta asked, eyes squinted.

Picture time, again. This time, it was from a collage – mainly from the newspaper and magazine reports about Sarah’s abduction. The most recent picture came from an article about the problem of teen prostitution in major cities. A girl with Sarah’s straight blond hair and emerald green eyes stands in the background.

Gretta’s eyes opened wide. Another tear escaped. Maybe this was too much for an initial interview. Maybe my answer was too much for her too fast. It certainly had to be the first to have nothing to do with sick feelings in the interviewer’s gut.

“I will pray that your family finds her,” she said, her voice catching slightly. “And that you receive healing when she comes home.”

Everyone said that – either they were praying, or thinking good thoughts for Sarah. But neck twitches, blank stares, and limp handshakes at the end gave their real feelings away. No one really wanted Sarah to come home. She would be different. Too different.

What told me Gretta meant what she said was a note in her voice. A note in which I could hear all of her experiences without the actual words.

It was the first and last time I ever brought up Sarah at work.

Note: The US Department of Justice estimates that about 293,000 American youth are at risk of being exploited in the commercial sex trade. While many go into this on their own to support themselves, many more are forced in – abduction being one form of coercion.


  1. decided to start a judging document to that way you can see exactly what it is being judged on. See google documents. Score is up.


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