On the Run

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Strangers

Mark didn’t sleep that night. He just sat and watched for any more signs of trouble.

“M-M-Mommy?” The little girl’s voice snapped him out of the trance he had mastered on stake outs.

Mark looked down to smile at the child. She had her mother’s pale complexion and green eyes but the blonde hair must have been from her father.

“It’s okay, hunny.” Mark started quietly, but the little girl, with being addressed, went into hysterics.

She cowarded away shaking her mom frantically as tears ran down her cheeks.

Mark had worked with many sensitive people but he had never before seen such an outburst of anxiety from such a young child. His jaw clenched as he wondered where this fear stemmed from.

“Mommy!” Isabel awoke to Elia shrieking. She wrapped her arms tighter around her daughter looking around frantically.

“What’s wrong baby.” She sighed, looking down at Elia who just pointed a shaking finger at Mark.

“I’m innocent.” Mark smiled awkwardly trying to lighten the mood.

Isabel blushed and Mark couldn’t help but notice the new life and beauty it brought to her face. He knew she would be breathtaking if she had a chance to heal and gain some weight. She was so thin.

“You’re still here?” Isabel asked in a daze of confusion. Absently she wondered if she was dreaming, or dead.

No, she quickly decided, if she was dead her throat wouldn’t feel like she was gargling acid, or nails, or both.

“I really don’t want a double homicide on my conscience.” Mark shrugged suddenly embarrassed.

“Oh, well thank you.” Isabel responded awkwardly.

Mark stood then walked away placing his phone to his ear.

Isabel stared after him in shock before shaking her head remembering she had things to do.

“Let’s go get cleaned up.” She smiled down at Elia who stared after Mark terrified. “He won’t hurt you baby.”

“O-Okay…” She stuttered.

Isabel took her daughter’s hand and led her to a nearby restroom. With the sink and hand soap she managed to get them each cleaned and in the last of their clean clothes.

“Mommy, I want a bath.” Elia whined.

Isabel felt her heart break. She wasn’t doing enough for her daughter. Elia deserved more.

“I know baby I’m sorry. At least you get to make a new friend today.” Isabel said, trying to distract her daughter while brushing her hair.

Meanwhile when Mark got off the phone with Zane he realized Isabel still had his jacket, with his radio in the pocket.

“Shit.” He muttered.

He pulled out his phone, connecting it to the radio.

“I want a bed. I want a bath. I want toys!” The little girl’s sobs came through his speaker and he instantly knew the mic on his radio was on.

“I know sweetheart, soon.” Isabel’s voice was sad but determined.

Mark stopped at a park bench and sat down to listen.

“I’m hungry and tired.” The child’s sobs seemed to tear into Mark’s chest as he fought against the curiosity that compelled him to continue listening.

“Well then let’s go eat. I know this is hard, but we had to get out of there. Do you understand?” Mark’s curiosity won out fully now and he listened intently. “Right now I’m doing everything I can to keep us safe. Okay baby?”

Mark listened as there was a scuffling noise then quiet for a minute. Just as he was about to turn the mic off Elia spoke again.

“Mommy, why does daddy hate us?” She sounded nervous as if broaching a taboo subject.

There was a short pause before Isabel finally said in a quiet lifeless voice, “I don’t know baby.”

“It’s my fault.” Elia said weakly.

Anger flared in Mark’s chest.

“Elia, that is not true!” Isabel’s voice was stronger than Mark had ever heard it. “You are perfect. You are beautiful, smart, kind, and loved. I would do anything for you Elia.”

“Yes mommy.” Elia sniffled.

“Now we are going out to breakfast today, but I’m not hungry okay. So I don’t want you to get upset that I’m not eating.” Isabel’s voice was suddenly exhausted.

Mark turned off the MIC in frustration.

A few things were suddenly clear; they were running from Elia’s father, they were really afraid of him, and Isabel had very little money and was starving herself to feed Elia. The last thing he knew was he needed to help.

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