Kim Purcell

TRAFFICKED - Chapter 1

Hannah took two small steps forward in the immigration line entering America at LAX. She was in a large white room with a line for people like her and another line for people who belonged. The people who belonged laughed and slouched, wore clothes that fit their bodies, and smelled of milk, dry cleaning, and deodorant. The people who didn’t belong stood upright unless they couldn’t, wore dressier but older clothes, and smelled of body odor, hot sauce, fish, garlic, and cheap perfume.

Hannah wished she looked like an American teenager. If only she’d been able to change out of these dirty Moldovan clothes. At the airport in Romania, they’d made her check her suitcase, and she’d been so flustered, she hadn’t taken a single thing out of it.

In the suitcase, she had a brand-new pair of jeans that the good agent had given her to look more American, as well as her T-shirt that said GOOD NEWS with a monkey dancing below the words. Those clothes would have given her a type of armor, but this dirty white shirt with the frills on the front and the too-blue slacks from her babushka made her look poor and desperate, exactly what the good agent had warned her she must try to avoid.

She squeezed the book with her fake documents inside. Two couples, a family, and older woman and a man were in line ahead of her. Then it would be her turn.

The line slid forward like a slow escalator, pulling her closer to the grim immigration officers who sat on stools behind a long white counter, separated into glass booths. They were examining people’s documents, searching for fakes like hers. They waved most of the people through a large, white archway into America, but they sent some through a door with a tiny unbreakable window, which she was sure led to an interrogation room.

She’d never been a good liar.