Chapter 11 : Escape PlanMom and Dad are fast asleep when I sneak out the back door. I don't even think twice about how what I'm doing will effect them, they have hurt me so much. I deserve to be selfish. They need to pay. They are the biggest bunch of hypocrites, only thinking about themselves. Not caring about my feelings, or Leah's for that matter. She will never know the truth if I don't find her. She could die never knowing. Her whole life would have been a lie. She would have passed, thinking she knew who she was,
I should have figured it out sooner. I mean, yeah sure, we look alike and stuff but there are other brown haired, brown eyed people in the world. And we don't have a family resemblance going on. No, this is too bizarre. I can't get my head around the idea that Leah hasn't got a drop of blood in her body that comes from the Mortel line. What even is her last name ? Who was her father ? I don't understand how a mother could abandon her child. Leah was the sweetest kid, who could look into her big eyes and push her away ? I wonder how she'll take the news, I'm guessing that she'll cry. I know that I would if I were her. Will she try to track her birthmother down ? Whatever she chooses to do with the information, I'll be there to support her decision.
I put my duffel bag and my sister's, I mean Leah's, backpack in the passenger seat, start the car and back out of the driveway. Once I'm on Oak Street, I head over to the nearest gas station. I won't be able to go anywhere with an empty tank. As it fills, I head inside to buy a snack. I walk through the double aisle and pick up a water bottle, four granola bars and a pack of mint gum. The guy behind the counter rings me up. I pass him a few one dollar bills and count out the exact change in dimes and pennies. He thanks me as I leave. I'm probably the most entertaining thing he's seen today, the highlight of his evening. A broken looking guy, that actually uses coins to pay for candy bars – yes, I am premium entertainment.
I get back inside my car, a second hand Chevrolet Silverado, that I acquired when dad bought his Nissan Juke. My hands, my head, everything hurts. I rest my head against the steering wheel. I just feel like dying. What in the world will I do if I can't track her down ? Where will I go ? A sharp tap on the window startles me, I look over and see the cashier gazing in, a worried look plastered on his face. I roll my window down.
“You okay, son ? You forgot your stuff.”
He hands me the plastic bag with my purchases. He looks like a nice guy, mid fifties, beer belly but wears clean clothes. He shaves each morning and the ring on his left hand, that's resting on my door, tells me that he's married. I bet you he met his wife in College. This is probably a second job, to earn a little more money. Maybe for a family trip with his two kids, or his eldest's going off to University soon and needs money to pay tuition.
“Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks man,” I answer.
But I'm not. My parents lied to me my entire life. I don't know what to believe anymore, or whom to trust.
“Alright, but if you get tired, pull over.” He's concerned for my safety, the first one to be. “Do you want me to call your folks ?”
No, most certainly not ! “I'm driving down to see them now, don't worry.” I don't know why I lie, I could have just said no, thanks.
He hesitates for a moment before stepping back, “Be careful, son.” He still doesn't seem reassured.
“I will,” I tell him.
I roll my window back up and turn on the music station once I've left the parking lot. It's the rock station that Leah loves. It's always passing these old songs that no one listens to anymore. We usually fought over who got control of the music. We would play rock, paper, scissors. Now I could change it without any trouble. I leave it on though. It's the only proof Leah even existed in my life, other then being a huge lie my parents made up. She was here, not too long ago, beating the rhythms out, while singing to the lyrics slightly off-key. My sister ? No. A friend ? Yes, of course. Maybe, if I hadn't grown up with her, she could have been a girlfriend. She's beautiful, truthful, funny, caring, smart, loving... Any guy would be lucky to call her his own. I turn my head at the unholy thought. She and I were raised by the same people. We are brother and sister by everything but blood, I have to remember that.
* * *
“Leah, come on. That guy's stupid ! Don't let him ruin your day,” I try coaxing my sister out of her room and down to her own birthday party.
“Leave me alone ! I'm never coming out !” she cries back.
“Pretty please ?” I beg.
“No, I said !”
I can tell that she's crying. I can't stand it. She is my baby, it's my role to protect her from douche-bags like Kyle McGreen. An ass who had the audacity to break up with Leah on her birthday. A day dedicated to her. He didn't even have the guts to do it to her face. No, Kyle broke up with Leah with a simple text message.
I need her to open this damned door. I need to put my arms around her. I need to comfort her, to brush away her tears and tell her that tomorrow will be a better day, a new beginning. With endless possibilities.
“Your cake is waiting downstairs. Guess I'll just have to eat it on my own,” I tease her.
I can hear her giggle and mumble something along the lines of “idiot”, or maybe “I don't care.” I prefer the latter.
But she gets up anyway and unlocks the door. I walk in and see that Leah already has her slender arms wide open, waiting to collect a hug. I reach for her and pull her close to my chest, burying my face in her hair.
“I love you,” she says.
“So do I, sis.” I also add, “You shouldn't care what people think, especially Kyle.”
“Easier said than done. Especially coming from you. Everyone loves you ! ”
“Do you want me to kick his ass ?” I suggest.
She laughs, then shrugs. Leah shakes her head. My sister isn't the violent type. Finally, after a few minutes I convince her to head down to the garden with me, where our family is waiting.
* * *
It's early morning by the time I pull up to an old motel off the Interstate. I grab the bags and lock the doors. The clerk is fast asleep at the reception desk, his drool dribbling onto a men's sport's magazine. I shake him. Startled, he sits up straight and mumbles a hurried “I wasn't asleep, boss !”
“A room, please,” I ask. I don't comment on the obvious lie, it wasn't meant for me.
“Sure. For how many days ?”
I hadn't thought about a timeframe. When should I leave ? As soon as possible. I'll stay for a day, catch up on all the sleep I've missed and then head up the coast. I don't have a clue of where she is though. The thought that she might be dead has crossed my mind a few times, but I push it away. If only I had some information on her location, I would know where to start looking.
The clerk hands me a key and gives directions to my room, first on the left, second floor, number 201. I thank him and head upstairs. The hallway is narrow and dimly lit. The place smells like the seaside and the slight odor of synthetic air freshener lingers in the air. My room isn't hard to find. The door is made out of cheap fiber wood and an actual keyhole, not an automatic card pass thingy, like in most hotels these days. The inside of the room isn't much better. The floor is dusty, the walls are moldy and the furniture is probably from Ikea. I don't really care, at $48 a night, I wasn't expecting a five star room. The window offers a nice view over the parking lot. Well, at least I can make sure that no one steals my car. There's a bathroom with a toilet and a shower, that looks clean. I refresh myself and strip until I'm only wearing boxers. The bed in nice and warm, hopefully without bed bugs. I turn off the light, waiting for sleep to take me away and sail me off to somewhere were nothing can hurt me.
An annoying beeping wakes me up. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and look around to see what's making that awful noise. It's my cell, that I'd left in my jeans, which were now laying on the floor. I pick them up and I double take at the caller ID. It's Leah. After I'd called her weeks ago, I had assumed her kidnapper had confiscated her phone and hadn't bothered trying to reach her again. I have to steady my hands before picking up, my heart beating out of my chest.
There's a rustling noise on the other end of the line, then I hear the most beautiful voice, Leah's, “Hey, brother.”
I bite my tongue at her words. This isn't the time or place to tell her that we aren't related.
“Where are you, are you hurt ?” I ask urgently.
She laughs into the phone, “Don't worry, I'm fine. I was sick but Adrian took care of me. And as for where I am, I'm not sure. Somewhere between Maine and Vermont. I'm in a hotel.”
“Who's this Adrian ? Your kidnapper ? The creep ! I bet you he's trying to sell you to some pimp ! Get out of there fast ! I'll find you, I'm in South Carolina. I can get to you in four days,” I exclaim.
“Don't Darik.” I can tell her voice is shaking. “I want to be here, Adrian didn't kidnap me. Things have changed, I can't go home. Not now, not never,” she's crying.
I feel like someone's ripping me to shreds.
“Are you pregnant sis ? Did he rape you ? Leah, you can stay with me. We don't need Mom or Dad.”
“Yes, I'm pregnant,” she's lying, I can tell.
“What's he done to you ?”
Why is she so scared ? Is he holding a gun to her head at this instant ?
“No, honey. I want to stay with Adrian. I just called to say goodbye. Darik, please just listen for a minute. Forget about me and comfort our parents. Take care of them. And don't come looking for me. I'm safe and happy.”
I'm about to contest when the line cuts and the only noise left is the lonely dial tone. I get dressed as fast as I can, take my things and head downstairs, leave a few bills to pay for my room and get into my car. I have my new destination, and it's somewhere between Maine and Vermont.