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  • Writer's pictureSofia Sawyer

Writing Prompt: Owing a Debt

Write a story about owing someone a debt.

The thing about owing someone something is that one day they’ll expect to cash in.

Today was that day.

Four years ago, Ryder Holton saved my life. He had been at the right place at the right time, pulling my unconscious body from a terrible car wreck. The doctors said if he hadn’t found me when he had, I would have bled out.

Come to think of it, I never found out why he was wandering alone on that empty street that night. I guess I was too focused on healing to ever think twice about it.

I didn’t know much about Ryder. We went to the same college and I would see him here and there on campus after the accident. We’d rarely talk, mostly limited to the pleasantries along with the awkward bob and weave around each other, but that was the extent of it.

I mean, what do you say to the person you owed your life to?

It wasn’t that I was ungrateful. I just didn’t know how to act around a stranger who was the reason I still had air in my lungs today. Do you befriend them? Worship them? Date them? I didn’t know how to integrate someone like that into my life. Someone who collided suddenly into my world like my car did into the telephone pole that chilly October night.

Seeing him was a constant reminder of the pain I’d endured from that accident. The fear I now have whenever I’m in a car. That memory hung between us like an oppressive weight whenever he was around. I just wanted to...forget.

So I avoided him as much as I could until we graduated later that year and moved away and on with our lives. The only proof that night had happened was the scar across my ribs.

I hadn’t seen or heard from Ryder since graduation.

Until today.

You could imagine my surprise when I found him on my doorstep on a snowy January night. I had moved states away from where we’d gone to college, and as far as I knew, states away from where he’d grown up.

How he found me? No clue. I knew not to post my address online and didn’t keep in touch with many people from college, at least not ones who were in his social circle.

It took me a moment to realize it was him. He had transformed into a man over the last four years. Taller, more filled out, a full beard, and a deeper voice.

“Ryder, what are you doing here?” It was the only thing I could say when I realized it was him on my doorstep.

“Claire, I’m sorry to bring you into this, but there’s nowhere else I could go without being found.” His dark eyes looked a little more intense. A little haunted. Uneasiness washed over me.

My gaze roved over his body, noting his flannel shirt and jeans. Not enough to protect him from the frigid Colorado night. A small backpack sat next to his foot. Logic told me to close the door on him. My gut told me to let him in after seeing his expression.

I opened the door wider and gestured for him to come inside. “How did you even find me? What’s going on?”

He stepped into the foyer and turned to me, his stare rooting me to the spot. “I was on my way somewhere the night I found you—the night of your accident. I had an obligation, and saving you meant I never showed up.”

“That was years ago. I’m sure whoever you had plans with would have gotten over it,” I said, brushing off his concerns.

He grabbed me by the shoulders and stooped to my level so I couldn’t look away. “You don’t understand, Claire. These aren’t the type of people to ‘get over it.’ I knew it was a matter of time before they came looking for me. After I graduated, I went off the grid. Changed my identity. Worked on a fishing boat that was out to sea most of the year. Somehow, they finally found me.”

My stomach dropped as a flash of genuine fear crossed his features. From what I knew, Ryder was a decent guy. Got good grades, had a small group of quality friends, was kind to those around him, mostly quiet. He wasn’t the type to get into trouble. So what could he have been involved in that would have him on the run?

“They’ve been tracking the people I know. My family. My friends. My old girlfriends,” he continued. “None of them knew where I was. My parents and friends knew I traveled a lot for work and was often out of touch. But none of them knew where I would be or my new identity. They found me anyway and are out for blood.”

I shook off his hands and walked through the foyer to my kitchen, pouring two fingers of whiskey into a tumbler. My hand shook, nearly spilling it all over me as I took a healthy gulp. None of this made any sense.

“Why did you end up here?”

He ran a hand through his thick, brown hair. “I had to make sure you were safe.”

“Safe? What do I have to do with any of this!” I slammed the tumbler onto the counter, thankful the granite didn’t crack it. “This is insane. You and I barely even know each other. Why am I being brought into this?”

“Because,” he exhaled. “They blame you for everything that happened when I didn’t show up that night. Now I need your help to end this once and for all.”


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