Below you'll see Raize's last name is replaced with ____. I don't know it yet. I'll go back and add it later.
I've made a Google Plus page as well! I'll be doing Google Hangouts once I get back to writing The Burning City for anyone who wants to hang out, ask questions, interview characters, etc.
The Renegade Messiah - Day 29
Word count: 930
Raize stepped outside the little grocery store. She looked around for a bench but it was occupied by employees on break. She crossed the parking lot and decided to take sanctuary in her car. This was never an easy conversation and she was thankful it would be her last.
“Ok, I'm ready.” She heard her voice begin to shake. Ten years and the memories still gripped her like ice.
“Yes, thank you. Miss ____, I'm calling to conduct your 20th and final interview with Blue Mountain Clinic.” The woman repeated herself, as if Raize had handed the phone off to someone at some point. It was a script and one that Raize could probably recite in her sleep if she had to.
“I'm going to ask you a series of questions about the events that brought you to Blue Mountain Clinic and how your life has changed since your decision.”
Raize felt her skin twitch slightly. She knew the woman was impartial; she wasn't judging her, and the survey was confidential. It paid some bills, bought some groceries and all Raize had to do was answer a few questions. This last interview was going to hurt.
“Go ahead.” Raize leaned her car seat back and closed her eyes. Outside, rain began to fall. The rain pummeled her car rooftop and made her tired. It had been a long week already. She was ready to finish her grocery shopping and go home. It was getting close to curfew time.
“At the time of your surgery, you described your relationship with the father of the child as—estranged. How would you describe your relationship now?” Raize hadn't seen Ruin in ten years. She had no idea where he was. Her answer was always the same.
“Relationship is non-existent. No change.” She heard the woman type some notes then continue.
“Do you have family and friends who are aware of, and support, your decision to visit Blue Mountain Clinic?”
Raize hated this question. Mostly, she hated the answer.
“I know these questions can be difficult, Miss _____. We appreciate your honesty.” Raize felt a genuine truth in the woman's voice, but it did little to quell the anger that was rising within her.
“Do you currently work full time, part time or not at all?”
The woman continued with basic questions, trying to judge how the abortion had affected (effected? I never know this one) Raize's life, health and her ability to continue and maintain relationships. It was a non-profit organization that conducted the interviews for research in exchange for money. The gift cards came from third-party with no return address a few days after her interviews.
“Ok, we've finished with the preliminary questions. As your final interview, I have a few questions that will be new. My supervisor will be taking over the call from here. Goodbye, Miss ____.”
“Good evening, Miss ____.” A man's voice came over the phone. Raize sat up slightly in her seat. The interviewers had always been women. What would this man know about how she felt? About her decision? What could he possibly ask that would--
“I'm here to ask you about the explosion that occurred at Blue Mountain Clinic the day of your surgery.” Raize's throat went dry. None of the other interviews had been about this; she was only meant to answer questions about her abortion. She never had a police officer take a statement, no one had ever come knocking on her door asking questions. The entire clinic had been destroyed—the media had written it off as another E.V.E. bombing.
“I don't know what you're talking about.” Raize knew she didn't sound convincing, she could barely convince herself. The man on the other end of the phone laughed.
“Ok, Raize. There's no need for pretenses.” She heard the man shift against the phone.
“We know you were at the clinic. We know, because we took a sample of your blood. We know because we've been monitoring your life ever since. I know you're grocery shopping right now at the market a few blocks from where you live with your parents. And your cat.”
Raize pulled her seat all the way up and checked her pocket for her car keys. Her hands were shaking so hard she nearly dropped her phone. She turned her car key. Nothing happened. She swallowed back a need to vomit.
“What do you want?”
“Just your cooperation, as we've always had.” He paused. “Your car isn't going to start. Not until you finish answering my questions.”
“Ask them, then.” Anger and fear made her voice harsh. Her voice wasn't shaking any more.
“Did you ever wonder what happened to your hospital bill—the one you accrued once Officer Letum checked you in? Where you slept, peacefully and safely, for three days? That bill was quite substantial. But not as substantial as your abortion costs.”
Money. It was about money, and they had picked the girl who worked part time at a gas station and lived at home with her parents. And they knew that, because that's what her interviews said.
“I can't pay those back,” Raize said as tears began to blur her vision.
“We are well aware of that. We'd like to negotiate something you can do, in return for financial freedom from your debts and the continued safety of your family.” Raize stared across the parking lot towards the small apartment she shared with her parents. She listened to the rain and felt her heart pound in her chest.
“What do I have to do?”