The blow lashed across her bare chest and wrenched a scream through her swollen lips. She twisted in pain but the bonds held fast.
"Please let me go," she whispered.
But the man didn't stop, didn't listen to her pleas. He raised his arm again, this time holding a knife.
She closed her eyes in horror and her world tumbled as she realized she was going to die now, alone and far away from home. Her clothes were torn, her body battered and her vacation had turned into a nighmare.
Julia Mason was forty-four years old. As a teacher, she was usually content to stay at home after busy days dealing with children and sometimes, upset parents. Years ago, she'd had a relationship with a fellow teacher, but that had ended abruptly and left her devastated with grief. Julia was a conservative person and her wardrobe consisted of no nonsense styles, all in drab colors. Her brunette short hair had strands of gray and laugh lines framed her brown eyes.
Time flew by for her as she went about her busy life, though for a long time she'd had a fantasy. But, to act meant stepping out undaunted into the unknown.
Could she really do it, she pondered? While not to, meant never knowing the jewels of the future. In a few years she would be fifty years old, and what had she done with her life? She made up her mind, the time had come.
The northern winds tore at her clothes as she ran into her house. The skies were gray and leaden with freezing rain and the predicted snow. It was December and Christmas loomed ahead with time-off from school. She tossed her heavy coat on a chair and called her friend at the travel agancy.
"Maryann, this is Julia."
"Hi, whats up?" Maryann greeted her in her usual cheerful voice.
"Listen girlfriend, I've decided to go on a two week trip, to Hilton Head, South Carolina."
"Well, for God's sake, its about time you went somewhere. But what made you decide to go there?"
Julia took a deep breath and replied excitedly, "I've always dreamed about seeing the south."
"Well, my friend, you'll love it! The weather is tropical and the history goes back to the Civil War."
"Wonderfull and I'd like to leave tomorrow Maryann. And can you find me somewhere to stay, right by the ocean?"
"You know, Julia, I've just gotten some new brochures and there's a lovely complex with villas for rent right on the water."
"Thats it!" Julia's heart beat faster as she began to dream about her adventure. She was going! The south, with its plantations, the ocean and the warm sun beckeoned.
This called for a celebration and ice clinked in a glass, then brandy and mix splashed as she made a manhatton. The bottles were old, left over from a party she'd had years ago. Her phone was glued to her ear as she reached into the back of a drawer and found an old pack of cigarettes she'd hidden from herself and only saved for special occasions.
"You're lucky to be able to leave now," Maryann exclaimed, "if I ever get my bills paid up, I'm going somewhere too."
"Marry that man or finish that book and either way you'll be rich!" Julia reminded her friend and took the first swallow of her drink and wrinkled her nose.
"Well maybe--" Maryann ventured. "I'll call you back with your itinuary, it probably will be a few hours"
Julia took her first drag of her cigarette and coughed and sputtered, then sat back and relaxed. Now she'd have a chance to wear those clothes she'd bought on a whim last year. Daydreamed of using them someday. And after a few sips of her drink, thought daringly, maybe I'll even meet a man!