I didn't know what time it was. The clock on my dash read 6:08 but I knew it was right. I knew it was well after midnight...but not yet even close to sunrise. I still couldn't help glancing back in my rearview mirror now and then, searching for any headlights in the distance although it was many hours ago that I had seen Frank. He had made everything feel much more risky. The freedom I had felt at first now seemed to wait in the sidelines for when it felt it was safe to appear. He had reminded me that I wasn't yet free until I was completely invisible. I wanted to vanish.
The approaching sign on the highway told me I was going to be entering a town soon. Although, I didn't know much about where I was. He had never allowed me to know anything about where we were. He had only told me we were home and all that mattered was that we were together. I didn't know anything about anywhere. Although he felt secure in my ignorance, this gave me the power of the unexpected. If I couldn't know where to go, how would he know where to find me?
I could see signs of life now. A few scattered homes here and there away from the highway, their driveways long and winding down to the road I had been driving on since early afternoon. I was getting very tired and knew I had to eventually stop to sleep but I was afraid. I had to switch direction or take a random route somewhere before stopping. Frank knew I was headed this direction, but that's all he would be able to tell.
Then I saw a flashing hotel light in the distance. Vacancy. Ok then. I would just have to hide the car. Maybe tomorrow I could make a trade with someone or something. How absurd. I felt like I was in one of those horrible movies where the one on the run sells his or her car but that leaves a perfect trail right to the idiot. What would I do then? He probably would get people searching for me...searching for my liscense plate. I had to ditch the car...soon. I looked around the cab once more. Oh, it would be hard to part with her. The warmth and safety I used to feel within this car on those horrible nights when I had to get out. Those nights when I refused to stay in the house any longer but could only get in the car, with no keys, and lock the doors. This car had been my solitude for hours...until he would come around looking and unlock the door to find me. I hurried to shut out the thought of him once more, scolding myself for letting my thoughts wander again. Yes, it was better to forget the car.
I pulled into the hotel lot. Maybe I would get an idea here. I couldn't bring this car with me any further. Sitting for a few minutes, I noticed a bus stop. I hadn't thought of this before. Grabbing my purse, I left my car parked next to the hotel and walked toward the bus stop. "This is the end of the trail for you, Mr. Jennings," I thought to myself. I wished I could have a clue as to when or where the bus would come and go. Perhaps there was some kind of pamphlet or posted timeline or something. I didn't want to ask the hotel clerk because I was sure he would be questioned about me. Then they would know I had gotten on the bus for sure. Of course, they'll suspect it anyway.
As I got closer to the bench at the stop, I noticed someone laying there. Sleeping. It was the middle of the night. I guess I should be sleeping too. I got closer and noticed the ripped clothes, the snarled hair, the dirty hands. But the face was so peaceful. It was a beautiful face and looked so out of place framed in that matted hair. I watched her sleep for a moment. It seemed she was having pleasant dreams. There was a hint of a smile playing on her soft lips and her eyelashes fluttered now and then. It made me want to sleep too, but I wasn't sure if there were people following me or how close they were if they had been following me.
Then I saw that the woman held in her hand a bus schedule! I didn't want to disturb her, but I needed to know when the bus was coming. I reached for the paper in her hands but then remembered I don't know what time it is. The paper wasn't going to help me when I didn't even know what time it is. I let my hand drop to my side. Then I set my purse on the ground and layed down next to the bench, resting my head on it. It wasn't the most comfortable pillow but it was better than nothing at all. Perhaps the earliest bus would be coming soon. I would simply make myself less visible while I waited. I hardly had noticed the woman on the bench. Another on the ground would be even less noticable.
I lay there for a few moments, looking up at the stars. I wished I could live in the stars, to become a part of the sky and be so free from the world, to just be another sparkle in the sky. Pondering about what this would be like, my eyelids slowly dropped and I fell into a beautiful dream about playing on the stars and flying into Neverland. I looked and looked for Tinker Bell or the Blue Lagoon where the mermaids lived. But all I could see was forest. Trees everywhere. Silence. No one there. But I was happy.
Suddenly jumped at the sound of a loud gush of air releasing followed by a rolling roar. I shifted my weight painfully on the cement ground. Somehow I felt like I had gained 100 pounds overnight. My hips hurt and my neck was cramped. My stomach was reaching within itself for breakfast and I felt I would be sick soon if I didn't eat something. Groaning I slowly opened my eyes to bright light. The woman on the bench was gone and a long blue bus was parked on the curb. I quickly grabbed my purse and boarded. Every bone in my body ached, pricking at memories in my mind that I didn't want to remember.
I headed toward the back of the bus, but then quickly took a seat when I noticed the back seats were filled with muscley men who looked as though they should be riding motorcylces and not a bus. I ducked my head and avoided eye contact with those around me. My stomach growled and I opened my purse. All I had was a bag of sunflower seeds so I popped a couple into my mouth. I retreived a small comb and mirror and appraised my appearance. I was, of course, hideous. Like always. However, I could fix my straggley hair a bit.
Looking up from my mirror, I was met with green eyes. It was the woman from the bench. She was sitting in the seat in front of me, turned backward, and staring. It startled me. Her angry mess of hair curled around her face in mats and her sweater was thin. The expression on her face was the most perplexing, however. It was a look of disgust. Her nose was wrinkled like I stunk of something terrible and her eyes burned with fury. I wanted to look away but was so stunned I just stared right back.
Finally she spoke. "What are you DOING?" She spat at me.
I couldn't answer. What was I doing? I looked down at myself, then around my seat as if to find some explanation to what she was referring to. "I'm sorry...have I done something to offend you?" I finally said, looking up at her again. But she wasn't there. I looked up the isle to see the back of her as she approached the driver of the bus.
"Stop the bus." She said urgently. "Stop it now. She's getting off."
Was she referring to me? What had I done to her? I gripped the seat beneath me, and crouched down trying to become invisible. Suddenly I felt the hair at the top of my head being jerked up and my head had to follow. I squeeled and looked back into those green eyes. What horrible contrast her face was to the content picture of peace I had seen during the night before. Had I been admiring this person?
"Ok girl," She spat at me again, "He's not stopping for you. But you'll be getting off at the next stop. I'm not sharing this bus with you." At this she turned and strode a few feet forward to take a seat. I was so perplexed I had forgotten how hungry I had been. What had I done? I looked up toward her a couple times again before sliding over to gaze out the window. I had planned to stay on this bus all day. I would just eat sunflower seeds until tomorrow. I'd gone longer without eating before. But now she wanted me off the bus at the next stop? I wondered how far that was. It wouldn't get me anywhere. He would be sure to find me.
I looked up toward her again. She was looking out her own window on the opposite side of the bus. Swallowing, I rose from my seat. I had to have a word with her. Perhaps if I explained...I swallowed again as I approached her seat. Sitting across from her I cleared my throat and waited. She glanced over at me and grimaced, wrinkling her nose again.
"Sorry, do I stink? What right do you have to kick me off this bus anyway?" I didn't recognize the strength in my own voice, "I am not going to be getting off this bus until I want to. Now either you tell me what you're problem with me is, or you'll just have to deal with it."
Sighing, she turned to me. "You're Sarah, right?"
In shock I slowly nodded.
"Meet Linda. Danny's first wife."
(to be continued...)