She was gone. Again. Running away from home. The creaking of the double silled window sliding slowly down after she crawled onto the fire escape. The flashlight used sparingly, just enough for safety, not enough to draw attention. Even though she weighed only 90 pounds soaking wet, Cindy’s footsteps on the metal decking made a squishy sound that was unmistakably her.
Should I tell mom?. Now before she goes too far? I don’t want her to go, not again. I miss her. I sat up and walked over to the window to see her join Billy in his convertible, idling quietly on the next corner. At least she’s not alone this time, I thought. At least she’s with Billy
He was her tennis coach, not hers really, but the “Girls” tennis coach. He had been a senior in high school when she was in junior high and he was friends with Jimmy, their neighbor up the hall.
At least she isn’t alone this time. I wonder why I keep thinking that. I noticed a movement and saw Jimmy run up and jump in the back seat.
The first time she ran away, she was gone for six months and when she finally came home, she looked scary. Her hair was all chopped off funny and she had ugly scratches on her arms and feet. I could never figure out how she got those weird scratches. Maybe she was living on a farm picking blackberries or in a rose garden somewhere. I don’t know. Why would she run away to live on a farm or work in the dirt when she could stay here with us and have her own room and an allowance?
Billy had just moved back into town and got the job at the high school. Nobody seemed to know where he had been the last few years, but apparently wherever it was, he stayed out of trouble, or they wouldn’t have hired him. When he was a kid, he was always in trouble, the instigator. He led the pack, the boys followed him around wherever he went, and did pretty much whatever he wanted them to do. He wasn’t particularly tall, or handsome, but he was clever and interesting looking, and his parents were well-to-do, and travelled a lot, so he had been to of places that most of us couldn’t even dream of.
Jimmy was the kinda guy who kept being held back, grade after grade. I think he finally gave up after his third sophomore year. So, he had more years of schooling than a doctor, but no diploma or skill. Maybe he liked the attention he got in detention, or from being older. I can only guess at what went on inside his head. He was always polite when older people were around, but a bully when they were out of sight. Everyone’s parents thought he was a nice boy, a little quiet, but we all knew better.
Cindy hopped into the passenger seat after flinging her backpack into the back. She didn’t know Jimmy was going with them, that’s a little odd. Hi baby, Billy said, ready for a road trip? She leaned over, and with her arms lifting her off the seat, kissed him on the nose. He grinned and shrugged her away. It was damp inside the car, but the heater worked at least. The window on the passenger side wouldn’t close all the way so the air was bothering her eyes. Can’t we put a towel or something in that window, she whined, and the boys ignored her. She leaned back and closed her eyes, trusing the boys to do what they needed to do, to protect her on this journey. Drifting off to sleep, she heard the boys begin to whisper in a low tone, but was too sleepy to try to figure out what they were talking about.
They pulled over at the truck stop and left her sleeping in the car. They sat at a booth in the corner and waited until the waitress brought them coffee. So where do you think we can get the most money for her Jimmy said. Billy grinned again, the same grin he gave her after she kissed him on the nose, and said Brownsville. Brownsville TX. They will take her into Mexico and put her in a room, and then they send a cut of her pay to us every week. I’ve been dealing with this guy for years, and I know where his family lives so I trust him. Ramon, that’s his name, Ramon.
So how many hours till we get there. She’ll be missed by end of day tomorrow, so there won’t be any alerts until at least tomorrow night, and we should be well on our way by then. Jimmy sighed and picked up the mug and took a sip of his coffee. Shit, he said, that’s hot.
Billy ignored him, watching the waitress bend over the table in the opposite corner. He could see her ass, he thought, she knows that. She’s sending a signal so strong I’m going to have to do something about it. I’ll keep my eye on her, he thought, she’ll give me a signal, head into the restroom or something, look back at me, and we’ll hook up.
What, he said, turning back towards Jimmy. What did you say? How many hours to Brownsville? Six, he responded, six hours and a bit.
Time to get moving Billy said, and they threw some change on the table and headed back to the car.
Cindy heard them get back into the car, and then drifted back to sleep. The car started, the heater kicked in again, and they were back on the road.
The hours went by, one two three, and Billy pulled into a rest stop to pee. Both Jimmy and Cindy were out cold, so he left them sleeping, and headed to the other side of the stop, near the toilets. He pulled out his cigarettes and shook one out the end, pulling it out with his lips. Reaching in his pocket, he grabbed the blue plastic lighter and lit the fag in one continuous move. Inhaling, breathing out slowly, he could see his breath and the smoke in the damp air. Might as well as enjoy this dampness now, he thought, there sure ain’t going to be any in Brownsville. Just hot, dry, dusty, hard to breathe there, not going to hand around long. To be continued.
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