Time to Run(9)

By: Marliss Melton

"We'll stop on the other side of Roanoke, near Bristol," he indicated, turning down the radio.

Sara nodded her agreement. She'd been hoping for a potty break. "How long will that take?"

" 'Bout two more hours."

She glanced at Kendal, who squirmed in the backseat.

Riding on roadways that weren't absolutely flat, he had a tendency to get carsick. "How do you feel, honey?"

"Okay," he said, but to her discerning eye that wasn't the case.

"I brought your medicine," she said rummaging in the backpack. "Oh, but I don't have anything for you to swallow it with." She started to put the medicine back.

"What's that?" Chase asked.

"Dramamine. Sometimes he gets carsick."

Garret had scoffed at Kendal's condition. Surely a Navy SEAL would also view it as a weakness. But in the next instant, Chase was easing into the breakdown lane. "There's water in the back," he explained. He stopped the car, jumping out to fetch them each a bottle.

The considerate gesture was deeply reassuring. Kendal swallowed his pill, and they were off, climbing up into the mountains. But Chase had lapsed back into silence.

"How many days does it take to get to Oklahoma?" Sara inquired. Could she endure that many hours with a brooding driver?

"Three days more or less," he said shortly.

"Why are we going there?" Kendal asked in a sleepy voice. The Dramamine was having its usual effect on him.

"I'll explain later, honey." The less Chase knew, the safer it was for all of them. She looked out the window to avoid his quick glance.

Three days! She'd been so focused on getting away that she'd spared little thought as to what it would be like in the hours and days following their departure. The idea of being cooped up that long brought little relief to her nail-biting anxiety.

By the time they pulled into a roadside motel, it was dark, and her stomach was rumbling. Chase unlatched his seat belt.

"They'll want a credit card imprint," he said, as she tried to hand him some money. "I'm only gettin' one room."

With that, he was gone, notching Sara's tension to the snapping point. She hadn't considered that they would have to share a room.

Jesse whined, as eager to get out as she and Kendal were.

Minutes later, Chase reappeared. Guiding them along the shadows, he escorted them to their room, shut the door, and drew the curtains before flicking on the lights. Kendal stumbled sleepily toward the bathroom.

"I'll be right back," Chase said. "I'm gonna walk the dog and take a look around."

As he slipped out again, Sara locked and latched the door. She turned and eyed the double beds. Was this forced intimacy just a means for him to take advantage of her? Surely not. He'd given her no reason to think he'd helped her for any reason other than human decency.

Besides, she knew what she looked like. She'd dressed this way intentionally for years. And for good reason.

Kendal came out of the bathroom, looking lost.

"Feeling better, sweetheart?" she asked. She crossed the room to catch his face between her hands. He was almost as tall as she was.

"Where are we going?" he demanded ignoring the question. "Not with him, I hope."

"No," she reassured him. "Chief McCaffrey is going to take us as far as Oklahoma," she explained. "From there we'll get a ride to Texas."

"Why? What's in Texas?"

The time had come to share her burning secret. "My real mother is in Texas. I was adopted, Kendal. Your father doesn't know that."

Kendal's jaw dropped. His gaze flicked over her like he'd never really seen her before. "Cool," he finally said. A glimmer of hope lit his eyes.

"That's why this is going to work," she insisted. "We're going to start all over again, with new names and everything."

"But what about all my stuff?" he asked with belated regret. "My PlayStation and my computer?"

"I'll buy you new stuff," Sara promised. "After we get settled and I get a job. It isn't going to be easy, honey," she admitted. "But it will be better. We'll make our own decisions. We'll do whatever we want without constantly having to worry whether we'll upset your father."

He gave her a searching look. "You would've stayed, wouldn't you, if Dad hadn't killed Mr. Whiskers?"

"I couldn't stand to watch him hurt you," she admitted.

"But he hurt you all the time."

He'd noticed, then, despite her efforts to protect him. Hiding her stricken look, she kissed his cheek and moved past him, into the bathroom.

When she reemerged, Kendal was watching TV. Chase knocked on the door, and she went to let him in.

"Spotted a Super Kmart across the street," he announced, letting Jesse off the leash. "I'm gonna run over there and get us what we need."