Chapter 32: Running Away
The sound of the engine as we drove away was comforting, allowing me to focus on returning the pace of my breathing to normal. I allowed my tears to dry on my cheeks whilst staring out of the window, watching as the trees passed by in a blur.
My life felt hazy in that moment, yet there were parts of it that were blindingly clear. The woman who had raised me was no longer who I thought she was, and had kept secrets from me ever since Nala left. The father who’d left me did it because he was in love with someone else, and my sister had a child and was living on her own in a remote part of The Meadows.
Each person living a life without me in it.
I wasn’t going back to my mum, I couldn’t, not after everything she’d done. She had robbed me of part of my life, making me think it was because of what happened to Nala. But in reality it was about her all along. Dad left her, so she was afraid of losing me too.
And now she had. I was leaving that part of my life behind.
Maybe it made me as bad as the rest of them, but I no longer cared. The lies made my vision distort, the uncovering of a heartbreaking truth. However, I spoke the two things I knew aloud, clear as the difference between night and day.
“I’m not going home.
And we are going to find my dad.”
“So we’re running away?” The Boy That Hates Books tightened his hands on the steering wheel, excitement burning embers in his blue eyes.
“Yup. Fuck it.”
I sat up higher in the leather seat of the car, getting a little restless. I’d recovered from earlier’s events but was still haunted by them. A nervous excitement sparked inside me, adrenaline returning to my veins, spreading like poison.
“Are you okay?” concern shadowed the smile I could hear in his voice. I wondered for a moment if his intentions were pure.
“No. I’m not,” I told him truthfully, “But I don’t want to talk about it anymore. My mum deserves to lose me after what she did, and now I finally understand why people run away.”
“Okay.” He nodded with understanding and not a second of hesitation.
The sky grew dark as we drove with the windows down, radio playing quietly. I reached over and turned it up, before settling back into the car seat.
The news was playing and I listened intently, trying to take my mind off the news I’d just learnt about my family.
“New information has been uncovered about the fugitive who is supposedly hiding in The Valley. Police have been working around the clock to ensure the safety of the community, and find the criminal wanted for the murder of his father. Pictures reveal-”
Suddenly the radio cut off, and I turned to see that The Boy That Hates Books was the one who’d done it. He saw me looking at him out of the corner of his eye, before turning to face me.
“Uh-uh, eyes on the road.” I reminded him.
He sighed and turned back. “Okay for starters, if we are really going to run away you need to stop nagging me about my driving. And two, if you’re wondering why I turned the radio off it’s because I don’t like thinking about where that guy is and I don’t think you do either. It’s scary.”
“Like your driving...”
“Kirsten!” He couldn’t stay mad, a smile playing at his lips giving him away.
“Don’t you want to know if they’re any closer to catching him?” I questioned.
A memory sparked up inside my head suddenly. It was one of Alice. The day when we were sat in the library and I was trying to read the journal that I would lose the very next day. She kept distracting me with her excitement on finding the missing, and how she was convinced that the fugitive was closer than we thought.
The complete opposite to The Boy That Hates Books.
“Nope.” He said it in a way that told me the conversation was finished.
Frowning, I returned my gaze back to the window.
“You know what?” My mind wandered in an excited frenzy.
“What?” His eyebrows knotted together.
“If we’re going to do this whole running away thing, I want to do it properly.” An idea sparked.
“I want to dye my hair blonde.”
He choked up with laughter, slamming his hands down on the wheel.
“What are you laughing at?!”
“Because what you just said was the most anticlimactic thing I’ve heard in ages.” He continued to laugh at me.
“Wow big word.” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.
“No seriously. We are about to embark on a journey that will probably change your life, and mine, forever and you want to add to the experience by dying your hair blonde. This is exactly like those stupid scarfs you insisted we wear back at the Cafe.”
I turned away from the window and gently shoved his arm, “That isn’t stupid. I wanna be like the movies when the people running away change their appearance so that no one recognises them. Have you ever seen ‘The End Of The F***ing World’ ?”
“That’s a Netflix series. Plus we have no reason to change our appearances.” Mr Obvious stated.
“Yeah I know smart-ass, but it’s a good example.”
“Well lucky for you I’m not trying to murder you.”
Without warning, we settled into an uncomfortable silence.
“Do you think-” I didn’t want to say it, didn’t want to bring it up. But I did. “Do you think the fugitive changed his appearance?”
He paused in thought, the path stretching out in front of us seeming to have no end.
“Yes. Probably. If you’ve done something as serious as murder and are trying to get away with it, I think you’d go to every length to keep your secret hidden.”
I nodded slowly, breathing shallow.
Talking about the fugitive wasn’t the best distraction from what was really playing on my mind, but at least it was something. My mum’s voice, her face, her kind eyes that have grown colder every day since Dad left us lingered in my thoughts.
My heart ached at the fact that she’d lie to me like she did.
“Do you want me to give you an example of something that isn’t anticlimactic?” He changed the subject abruptly.
Nerves fizzed like champagne on new years eve.
“My name-” he paused, probably for effect.
And in that moment, it was as if the cork of the pretend champagne bottle in my head had popped. This was my midnight beside a boy with blue eyes, a lopsided smile and a mystery that I couldn’t solve.
“My name is Miles.”