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Double Take On Destiny


Marianna Hernandez

Throughout my entire life, I have done many deeds. Amongst all the good and bad that I have done, I never failed to commit mistakes. Every person in this world goes through different stages in life, such as: an infant, a toddler, a kid, a teenager, an adult, and finally an old age person. A big part of growing up is making all different kinds of mistakes, because they help you grow and develop into a better person. They teach people lessons, which they remember for life.

But, even if screwing up can often be beneficial, sometimes it's better not to screw up at all. Despite the indiscretions, which can often be corrected, forgiven, and forgotten, there are those that in one simple moment have the power to change one's life forever.

As I was growing up into teen hood, I started to see life from a new perspective. However, I was still living in a fairy tale world of my own. I saw things not in their true color, but all in pink. I kept thinking everything was so pretty and that nothing evil really existed. I never thought that there would come a time where circumstances would overrule my own will.

Oh dear Lord, how wrong was I to have had such a naive view of life; especially when we live each day not knowing what can happen to us in a minute. Well, in a short while there came a moment in my life which changed all that.

It happened to me on one June night of 1998.  While my fellow eight grade classmates were on a graduation trip, I, on the other hand, was getting ready for the ultimate teenage party of the season. I kept hoping for this party to be a blast. But what I didn't know, was that after this night things would never be the same again. At around eight, as I was getting ready to leave, I received a phone call from an acquaintance of mine offering me a ride with two guys I had never met before.

Since I wanted to manage both things at the same time, I invited her and the two guys to join my friends and me at the party. And so, with my friends waiting for me downstairs in the lobby, I put on my shoes and went out the door.

When we arrived at the party's location, it was hot out, and considering that there had been a little mishap between a couple of my friends, we were all standing outside chatting. As I was just about to go in, a white van drove by across the street. Out of it came my acquaintance Laura, and suddenly my heart began to race.

My intuition began to tell me that something would happen soon. When Laura finally came up to me, she informed me that her two friends Josh and Nicholas were unable to attend the party because they hardly knew anyone there, and they didn't want to crash it. Instead, she offered me a ride around my neighborhood for fifteen minutes.

This was the kind of thing I always said I'd never do. Therefore, I tried to make up any excuse possible to get away with not taking her offer. But, even though I knew it would be a wrong and really stupid thing to do, a part of me really wanted to go.

I always yearned for some adventure, some wild and crazy thing to make my life worthwhile. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. I realized then that the friends I came to the party with seemed to be getting along fine without me, and a sudden feeling of loneliness overcame me.

Some friends kept telling me to go and some made sure to warn me not  to. All in all, it was my decision to make and no one would have to deal with the consequences of my actions but me. Thinking that this would make me look cool, getting into a hot van with two gorgeous guys by my side, I decided to take up the offer. What seemed to be a fairly easy decision to make at first, what seemed to be such a tiny and insignificant event throughout all my teenage years, in the long run, ended up affecting the rest of my entire life.

It was already about ten o'clock at night, and instead of being back at the party long ago, I was still riding in the backseat of that white van, looking out the window, watching the lanterns glow in the moonlight. I had absolutely no clue of where I was going, and whenever I asked anyone about it, I never really got answer. I had already begun to regret going with them in the first place, and while being driven away to an unknown destination and having my friends back at the party worried sick about me, I started to realize I had made a big mistake.

At around ten thirty, Josh received a phone call from some guy who Josh claimed owed him money. He told me that we were going to pick up the money and promised me to get back to the party if I would agree to dance with him. I, of course, loved the idea and said yes.

When I asked him where the guy lived, he told me 86th Street in Brooklyn, and so I assumed that was exactly where we were heading. Soon after, I found out that we were never heading to his house, and really were going to meet him somewhere else.

Close to eleven, we got to Manhattan. We drove around for about a half-hour or so, listening to music and looking around at stores and different places like Rockefeller Center. It was so beautiful in the city that night. It was warm and really nice out. After some time of driving around the city that never sleeps, we crossed some bridge as I remember and came to an interstate highway. It was dark and it was hard for me to identify where exactly we were; all I saw was that we were no longer in Manhattan.

We passed the interstate line and drove another half an hour on the highway. Some time before midnight, we arrived at some place that I didn't recognize. When Josh and Nicholas got out of the van for a couple of minutes, I asked Laura if Josh liked me and she answered, "He said he will have a lot of fun with you tonight!"

The sentence, which I should have taken seriously, I took as a joke - another big mistake!

Sure enough, they came back and decided to drive us further. Now I figured that I was in New Jersey or at least somewhere, just not in New York. They were thinking of taking us to a night club, and, well, for a fifteen year old a night club definitely seems fun, especially when you have a teen who always yearns to do something adult-like, such as going to a night club.

However, for some reason they decided not to go. Now I know why, because they had something else in mind.

Finally, we arrived at a place where they decided to stay. I didn't realize what it was right away, but as we drove up closer, I saw what it was. A cheap motel located thirty minutes from New Jersey. I got really scared - I kept wondering why in the world they would  pick a motel as a place to get money from that guy. And, why was it in New Jersey in the first place?

Soon some of these questions would be answered. We all got out of the vehicle and went into a small motel room. It was a small cheap place with a television, a somewhat large bed, Jacuzzi, and a bathroom.

As I sat down on the bed, Josh called his friend and told him where we were. The guy said, or so he told me, that he'd be there soon or a little later, I don't quite remember. All I recall is that I started freaking out on Josh.

"Get me back to the party now!" I demanded.

"Calm down! You'll get back to the party in an hour," Josh yelled in response.

I doubted that what he said was true and began to panic. I saw that while I was sitting and talking to Laura, Josh closed the blinds and stuck a piece of tissue into the peephole. I realized then that I was in really big trouble, which I didn't think I could have gotten out of. Not anymore! Not since I ended up across the state penniless without even a quarter to call home from a payphone. I could have asked to call from Laura's cell phone, but I was too afraid - too afraid to call home, too afraid to call the police, too afraid to do just about anything.

I had no clue whether I'd be raped or even killed. I didn't know these people and from what I'd seen so far they seemed capable of anything. I was in total danger and I needed to get out of there as fast as possible.

I sat down on the bed next to Laura, who at that time, as I'd just begun to realize, had taken an ecstasy pill and hardly knew what she was doing. I told her that I wanted to leave this place and get back to the party just like I told Josh. She got up and went to talk to him. I don't know what she told him, but when they returned, Josh stayed in the room with me as Laura left the room with Nicholas.

Josh, seeing that I was very upset and scared, tried to calm me down by putting some cold water on my face. Then he gave me a nice massage, and we just sat and talked. He tried to kiss me but I backed away. He pretended to understand, but now I know he just probably thought I was playing hard to get.

I wasn't playing hard to get; I was just scared of the consequences. I did not want to make another mistake; Lord knows I'd made plenty already. This mistake I knew would be the most regretted one of all and I wasn't ready to take that risk.

I found out later that Laura had told Josh and Nicholas that I wasn't a virgin and probably one of her sluttish friends who would fool around with any hot guy she sees. I was none of those things and she knew that - she set me up big time! But, then again, I can't blame anyone but myself for everything that happened.

Josh asked me to stay with him at the motel overnight, but I refused. Then he left the room and after about five minutes, Nicholas came in. Nicholas acted nicer than Josh and tried to make me feel safer around him, and I really did too.

It was about one in the morning when I heard some phone ringing. I found it was coming from Laura's cell phone, which she'd left in her purse in the room. I opened her purse and took out the phone. Right then, Josh came in and I gave the phone to him. He looked at it and said that there were about eight missed phone calls, all coming from my parents and my friends.

He got worried and went to get Laura. He came back after a while and told me that we were going home. I went to sit in the van as Josh, Nicholas, and Laura got ready to leave the motel. Laura got inside first, while the guys paid for the room, and after giving me a glance she asked what I did with Josh.

"Nothing!" I answered firmly. "And you?" I asked her.

"Nothing!" answered Laura.

Well we both knew for sure that one of us was definitely lying. Then the guys got inside the van and we drove away.

"I am finally going home," I kept saying to myself.

Those words never seemed so dear as they did now. I was so thankful to G-d that nothing happened and I am still thanking Him for it, up to this day.

Driving home was long and depressing. Everyone was silent except Josh and Laura who were bickering with each other about some lie. I only realized later what lie they were talking about - the lie she'd told about me. He knew now that she lied and was of course mad at her like crazy.

All I kept thinking throughout the whole time was how my parents and friends would react to me. What would they think? Would they believe me that nothing happened? But I knew that I needed to get home first that's all that really mattered now. That's all that ever should matter in reality.

I got home okay. Josh and Nicholas dropped Laura home first and then drove me back to the party's location. No one was there and the party had ended long ago. They offered to drive me to my building but I said no and walked another two blocks to my house. Being in a state of big shock, I didn't really know much of what was going on.

When I came home, my parents even searched to see if I was on drugs. My cousin was so worried about me that she'd even called the police and reported me missing. The cops came to my house and left right away because I told them that nothing happened and I was safe and unharmed.

My parents treated me a lot better than I thought. I guess it was because they were just so happy that I came home that nothing else mattered. I couldn't tell anyone where I had been, what would they think? Later, I was forced to tell them the truth. After that I don't think they ever looked at me the same way again. Up to this day, my mom still thinks that I have lied and that something did happen.

My friends seemed like they believed me, but even they never really thought of me in the same way.

The next morning, I found out something terrifying. A news reporter on the radio announced that a teenage girl who went to a party that same night had disappeared with a couple of strange guys and was killed in a car accident. A year later, I found out from a friend of mine that the girl actually was at the same party as I was. We could have simply been standing feet away from each other, and neither of us knew what was coming to us.

We both had driven away with people we didn't know, and both had been reported missing. The only difference between us was that she was raped and died in a car crash with the people she was with. There was only one survivor, who managed to jump out of the car right before it crashed. But he disappeared and no one has been able to find him since.

The unforgettable June night had made a big impact on me. Even though I will always regret what I have done, I believe it served as a benefit to me. I think that if I didn't go through that scare and suffering, then I wouldn't have learned a lot of important lessons in life.

This experience has made me stronger and a lot more appreciative towards life. I am extremely thankful to G-d for sparing my life that night, and I will continue to thank Him for the rest of my days.

It is very scary when you think about it: one minute you're all alive and well and the next something happens and boom you could be dead! I hope that the special stranger with whom I shared a part of my fate that night will rest in peace.

I pray that her death has not been in vain, and that this story which I dedicate to her, will help a lot of teenagers to prevent these kinds of situations from happening. I hope that this story will teach everyone a lot of important lessons as it has taught me.

Someone once said in a movie, that a moment can change your life forever, and you don't even know when it's coming. But I think that the greatest moral of all here is that people should always think before doing something, or they'll never know what price they'll end up paying at the end.

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