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Road to nowhere
The stars are still out as I slip through my window sill onto the wet grass. It's bright enough outside for me to be able to see, but still dark enough for me to be hidden, even though I am probably the only one up at this hour. All that I have is my school backpack filled with a few changes of clothes, a little food, money, and my camera. It makes me uneasy not having my phone, but I have been planning this for too long, I don't want them to find me. Well, I don't want them to find me yet at least.
The idea of just going off and living on my own, with no one knowing where I am has always fascinated me. It's not that I want to run away, my life certainly isn't perfect, but it definitely isn't anything that I need to escape from. And that was the only thing holding me back, the idea of my family and friends thinking they did something to make me run away. But I think the letter I left was convincing enough to let them know I would be okay wherever I was. Even though I guess I technically couldn't promise that.
Maybe this isn't normal for me to want to just leave everything I have and go exploring on my own. In fact, I am sure some people would call me insane and maybe I am. But all I know, is that I need this. I need to get away from this crazy, stressed society. Which is why I have been planning this trip for the past 6 months. I have the perfect spot for me to go to, and I have saved up enough money for me to hopefully get by on. If everything goes as planned, in a few days I won't even be needing any of the money.
My feet touching the cement is the only sound I hear. Over and over again yet each sounds different from the one before it. Everything is silent, as if the world is holding it's breath waiting to see if I will turn back. But I won't. I have given up on too many things before I would never forgive myself if I turned back now. I continue my walk through the neighborhood and then I reach the rental car I had bought. It was parked casually on the side of the road, to others it would look like someone was staying the night at a friends house. But to me, it looked like the very thing that would take me out of here. And I have never seen anything that looked so beautiful.
I silently slide into the car and start the engine. The buzz of the car makes me even more excited than I was before, it is finally happening. I watch the scenery pass me by, lit up by my headlights. It feels good knowing that I won't be looking at these same houses for a while. Their all too similar features and perfectly trimmed yards encourage me to keep driving out of here, and I certainly do.
I drive for three more hours until I am finally out of Arkansas. The interstate has slowly been filling up with more cars the later it gets. I blend in well among them, though to them I probably just look like a regular teenage girl on her way to school. Not someone who is on her way to running two states away from her home. But that is what makes this so much more fun.
By the time it is nine o'clock my stomach has been grumbling for an hour straight so I decide it is about time to pull off for breakfast and to fill up with gas. I see a Waffle House right off the interstate so I pull off and begin smelling the bacon, making my stomach yell even louder. The parking lot is pretty empty with only about eight or so cars which ensures my hope that this will be a quick stop. According to the signs I am in Franklin, Tennessee. It is an interesting town but I know it is nowhere near as interesting as where I am going.
Just as I had suspected, when I walk inside there are only about three tables filled, so I take a seat at a booth near the back of the restaurant. I notice at one of the tables there is a group of men who look to be in their thirties whispering about something, at another an elderly couple sits contently in silence, and at another a young mother tries to keep her baby quiet. I wonder what they are all thinking of me? But my thoughts are interrupted as a young waiter comes up to my table.
"Morning, anything you want to drink?" he asks me in a tired voice. I ask for a water and go ahead and order my breakfast and he goes back to the kitchen. He looks to be a little older than I am, but by the way he walks and handles himself he seems to be very mature. He reminds me of my older brother, Adam.
Adam is nineteen and he is the typical overprotective big brother. Anytime I have a boy over at the house I try to plan it so Adam isn't there because most of the time he scares whoever is with me. He is famous for his "If you make my baby sister cry just remember I will find you" speeches. Sometimes that gets annoying, but I have learned to put up with it. Partly because I talk to him about anything, in fact I almost told him all about my plan to run away. We are so alike that he would have completely understood what I was talking about and why I wanted to leave. He is probably the only person that would understand, but there is no way that he would let me do it. Which is why I was forced to leave it a secret.
"Here you go." the waiter quietly says as he places my drink and breakfast on the table without making eye contact. The aroma of the food in front of me overwhelms me and I pick up the sausage with my hands and begin eating. My mother would certainly not approve of these table manners. I drown my waffle in a sticky concoction of syrup and butter and begin eating away at that as well. At the delicious taste, I contemplate ordering about ten waffles for my travels, but then I decide against it. I clear my plate within minutes of it being set down and pay the check.
I realize as I'm paying that it was silly to keep all the cash I took out of my bank account in my wallet. A few hundred dollar bills fall on the ground as I am fumbling for the money. As I'm picking it up I notice one of the men looking at me, but he looks away as soon as we make eye contact. Finally I find the correct amount of cash and leave it on the table along with a generous tip. As I am getting up from the table, I realize that my parents are probably just now realizing that I am missing. Or maybe they just think I went early to school and won't even find my note until this evening when it is time for dinner.
I can't wonder about any of this right now though, I need to keep moving on. I walk out of the restaurant and as soon as I reach for the door of my car I feel something poking into my side. I look down to see an unfamiliar object held by the man from the restaurant. I notice the other two men he was with are standing about twenty feet away with...guns in their hands! As I look back down again I notice it is a black handgun pointed at me, and the man has his hand on the trigger.
As soon as I make the connection, fear makes my body squirm and try to escape, but he firmly grabs on my shoulder.
"Listen girl, I don't wanna hurt ya pretty little self, but I will if you make any noise, just be quiet and cooperate okay?" he nervously looks around as he says this. He won't shoot me, I can tell by how nervous he is.
"Help!" I begin yelling and trying to get out of his grip, "Help! He-" at this point he takes his hand covers it over my mouth and cocks the gun. Maybe I underestimated him. His two friends began moving towards my car and he roughly opens the back door and throws me in the car, slamming my door. There is no way he is going to ruin my trip on the first day.
I open the door again and look up to see my waiter has walked outside and already knocked two of the men unconscious, but now he has a gun pointed at him by the same man who had me at gunpoint. I run and throw myself on the man and in the same instant I hear a shot, then I fall on the ground. Then everything goes black.
I am in a car, it is moving, but I am not driving it. There is no radio on, the not sound is the steady hum of the engine. I open my eyes eyes and at first everything is blurry but once I can focus I look over to the driver. He noticed that I am moving and studies me carefully but doesn't say anything and then returns looking at the road. I notice he smells like pancakes, and then I remember who he is.
"Uhm, what happened?" I ask very quietly and a little nervously. Something about this boy makes me uncomfortable, but I just can't figure it out. He looks again at me, almost angrily and even though I can feel see staring at me, I just can't seem to stare back at him.
"I'll tell you what happened," he spit at me fiercely, "you spilt all of your daddy's big bucks on the floor and those old creeps saw and knew you'd be an easy target. Then whenever they whipped out the gun you tried attacking them, and so then I really had no choice but to come and get you it of there. And you made them so mad that they have been following us, so now I'm driving to the middle of nowhere missing my work shift, thanks." Was he seriously yelling at me for getting robbed? It wasn't like I had asked for this. And he had a serious attitude problem, I don't know who he thought he was. And it was "daddy's big buck" that was my money that I worked hard for.
"Well," I began a little icily "no one made you come out and save me or whatever, I had it all under control. I was fine until he was about to shoot your head off!"
"Are you kidding me? If it wasn't for me you would be either unconscious or dead in your car with no money. And you know I'm pretty you haven't thanked me yet!" Okay, this kid had some serious issues if he really expected me to thank him.
"And what should I be thanking you for, just wondering? Kidnapping me?" I began sarcastically. "Where are we even going? You know I was actually on my way to a very important place and I'm sure you are going the completely wrong direction."
"Well I'm very sorry we aren't headed where you want, princess," he said. I rolled my eyes and he continued, "We can turn around if you want, and go straight back to those nice men if it's so important that you get to wherever this place is." I just stared at him. He had thick brown hair that messily laid on his head and thick eyebrows of the same color that were deeply furrowed. His skin was tanned and he definitely a lot bigger and stronger than me, so there was no way I would would that fight. He noticed me eyeing him down and looked at me again with those confusing brown eyes. He deeply sighed and then looked back at the road.
"Listen, I'm sorry I blew up on you like that," he spoke. So tough boy did have feelings. I didn't say anything and waited for him to continue. He did, "It just scares me that you don't realize what could have happened. Those were some really bad guys. And I'm pretty sure we lost them about an hour ago so we could probably turn around. Your parents are probably worried about you, we've been driving for about three hours." Something told me that this was going to be the person who would take me back home. He is the one who would think I was "stupid and irresponsible" and take me back, ruining my trip before it ever even began. There was only one way to make sure that didn't happen; he had to come with me.
"My parents know I'm traveling, I'll call them to check in in a few hours. I don't feel like I'm safe to drive, you know, with my head and all. So if you get me to where I'm going then you can take my rental car back to wherever you need to go." he doesn't say anything so I assume this means he is willing to come along. So I continue, "As long as we are on the way to North Carolina, then we're going right to where I need to be."
The rolling hills slowly grow steeper and steeper and soon enough we are driving through mountains. We had stopped for lunch and I had convinced him that I was fine to drive, which despite his protesting I could tell he appreciated. We hadn't talked that much, all I really learned was that his name was Nick, he was 18 years old, and that he was working a part time job at Waffle House while finishing his senior year. Nick was a very mysterious boy. I am usually very good at reading people, but something about Nick was different.
I looked over at his chest slowly rising and falling, he was deep in sleep. When I first saw him in Waffle House I thought he was a shy kid, but he surely had some strong words for me at the beginning of our car ride. I wanted to take this trip on my own, without anyone else tagging along. But it was beginning to look like there was no way that would happen. I might not be able to understand Nick, but I know as soon as he finds out my parents don't know where I am going, he would have me back in the car headed straight back to Arkansas.
It was certainly going to be hard, basically I was going to have to kidnap him. Or trick him into thinking we got lost. One way or another I was going to find a way to make sure he was stuck with. He definitely wasn't the best company, but he was big and strong so that would probably be useful. I guiltily look over at him sleeping in the passenger seat one more time. He reminds me so much of Adam. I miss Adam. He is probably so worried about me and rereading the letter I left over and over again looking for some kind of clue I might have left him. But he wasn't going to find any, because I as very careful with what I said and didn't say in that letter.