Part 19 – On the Run

The world returned to me, piece by piece. First came the pain, with a dull throb in my head, and tender aches and pains that tended to accompany scrapes and bruises, then came sound, a blaring car horn in the distance and leaves rustling in the wind, and sight came last, my eyes snapping open to reveal the darkness of the night. I brushed the hair out of my eyes and clawed my way up into a sitting position. Leaves snapped into my face and I jerked sideways trying to brush them away, but each time I swatted one away more slapped me in the face.

As my eyes adjusted to the moonlight, I could finally take in my surroundings. I reached around the back of my head where the pain was the worst and felt something warm touch my fingers. Blood. I gritted my teeth and grabbed a hold of one of the larger branches using it as leverage and pushed myself up from the ground.

I was banged up pretty good and in ordinary circumstances I would have gone to the hospital or at least visited a doctor, but these were far from ordinary circumstances. By now, they probably wanted me for murder, the safe thing to do would be to get out of town and that’s what I intended to do.

I wouldn’t risk bringing the trouble with Jeff down on Megan or her father which meant I would need to do it on my own. The prospect terrified me, but I saw no other choice.

I grunted and pushed myself away from the tree. I wobbled around on my feet for the first few steps, but the more I moved the easier it seemed to get. It hurt like hell, but at least, I didn’t seem to have broken anything.

I started toward Megan’s house, moving through the darker areas of the park hoping to keep from being spotted. No one cried out, so I guess I was successful.

Moving through the rest of town was a little trickier, but I found my way to the Hails’ home without incident. I stuck to the shadows, and dove behind a bush whenever a car got close. I had no idea what time it was, but most of the houses around were dark so it must have been late.

Both cars were gone from Megan’s home when I arrived and the lights were off. It was possible they’d fled town, but my gut told me they were out looking for me. Either way, there wouldn’t be anyone there to try to stop me. I stuck to the shadows and slipped around into the back of the house. As expected they’d locked the rear door, but I knew where Mr. Hails hid a spare. I walked up to a tall pine tree that towered over the house and slid a hand up the side of the trunk. There I found a key hanging from a nail more or less where I expected it.

I retrieved it and returned to the back door, opened it, and stepped inside the house. The kitchen was dark as I stepped inside. There was a switch somewhere along the right wall, and I slid my hand across it until my hands found purchase. I bit my lip and looked around the room. I’d spent a lot of time in that house and in a lot of ways it seemed like a second home to me. It was too bad I’d never see it or the people who had made it seem such a welcoming place again.

My lips trembled with that simple revelation and tears stung the corner of my eyes. When I tried to wipe them free, they kept coming. I gritted my teeth and made my way up the stairs. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and jotted down a quick note for Megan. My tears splattered the paper as I wrote smudging the ink in a little in a few places, but it remained legible. I told her I was sorry and that she meant the world to me, but I had to go to keep them safe. I signed my name and slipped it under her bedroom door.

Once inside my makeshift bedroom I grabbed whatever supplies I could, one bag of clothes, some stuff my mom had tossed in the trash, and the little bit of money I had. As much as it pained me to leave my gaming gear, I could never hope to carry all of it halfway across town. I made my way back down to the kitchen, took one final look around the kitchen, before setting the key down on the counter and slipping out the back door.

Pausing outside the back doorstep, I scrounged through the bag before finding what I’d been looking for: a black hoodie and dark blue pair of sweatpants. I slipped both over the clothes I was already wearing, then used my trick when it became clear they didn’t fit me all that well. Loose bits of cloth fluttered to the ground, but I didn’t bother stopping to clean them up. I slung the bag over my shoulder and made my way back out into the night. I had one more stop to make before leaving town.

It had taken me almost twenty minutes to get from Megan’s place to my mother’s home. Normally, the walk would only have taken about ten, but toting the bag of clothes had been a little more strenuous than I’d expected and it had slowed me down. Sticking to the shadows and diving behind whatever barriers were available at the time didn’t speed things up either.

When I’d gotten to my mother’s place my car was the only one in the driveway. Haglund’s was closed by that time of night and my mother didn’t work overnight shifts, my guess was she was out for a night on the town with her sister. Thank God for that. I didn’t know if I could handle another confrontation with either.

When I got into the car I froze. Not because I feared discovery so much as the prospect of what lay ahead of me. Save for spending a few months in the summer at my grandmother and aunt’s homes, I’d lived my entire life in Clearville. Although things had already changed in ways beyond my control, leaving town seemed a huge step.

I contemplated leaving my mother a letter, like I had for Megan, but I’d already made my feelings known.

There was another thing holding me back, my mother still had the title to my car stashed somewhere in the house. It was in my name, but with no proof of my true identity She might report it stolen and the police would have yet another reason to come after me. Grand theft auto didn’t seem that bad compared to murder charges, but it meant that every cop car from here to Spiral would be looking for me.

I contemplated other options, but I saw none short of staying in Clearville and facing the music. With a long sigh, I started my car and pulled out of the driveway. I’d never been to Spiral, but I knew what direction I needed to go. My twist had destroyed my mobile, so I would need to pick up a map somewhere along the way, but for now I’d settle for heading in the right general direction.

With that in mind, I turned down Fifth Avenue and headed straight for the interstate on-ramp. Within moments I was on the open road and headed toward my new future. God, it scared the crap out of me.