Dressed in concealing black, 15 year-old Stacey slipped across the hall to her sleeping motherís closed bedroom door. Stacey held her breath as she carefully turned the knob and entered the darkened space. Taking care to make no sound, she felt along the dresser top until she located a wallet and key ring. She tucked the wallet under her arm and grasped the keys so they wouldnít jingle as she stole back out.
In the kitchen, she grabbed some cookies, potato chips, and two sodas before heading out the back door. ďíBye, Mom. I do love you,Ē she whispered. Moving toward her motherís Blazer parked in front, Stacey hoped that nosy Mr. Timm across the way wasnít suffering insomnia tonight.
As noiseless as possible, she opened the driverís side door and climbed in. She fumbled to get the key into the ignition without turning on the overhead light, and then drove cautiously to the end of the street before flicking on the headlights.
The clock read 2:03 as she turned on a country radio station and eased onto the highway a couple miles later. Stacey was glad for quiet rural roads, because she needed to get a feel for the car. For several days now, whenever she had ridden with her mom, she had watched every move her mother made as she drove. Stacey had memorized the dashboard, foot pedals, and steering column; being very glad the vehicle was an automatic.
In the still, dark night, with fields on both sides and a star-studded sky above, she drove toward the freeway. She had to get away to think, be alone, make plans. It had all been too much the past few monthsóDadís long-time abuse of her exposed, the move from Oregon to Idaho, her parentsí divorce, a new high school, intense counseling sessions, her own rage and fears. Stacey had a hazy idea of heading for Montana and looking for a cousin she thought lived near Bozeman.
The freeway on-ramp sign loomed ahead, illumined by her headlights. Iíd better really concentrate on my driving now. I donít want to get stopped and have the cops discover I donít even have a learnerís permit.
Traffic was light, and she made sure she kept to the speed limit and signaled when making lane changes. To calm her nerves, she ate half the bag of chips before realizing they were making her thirsty. She didnít want to have to make a potty stop.
Four hours later, she pulled off the freeway at a lighted exit to find a cheap motel where she could sleep the day away. Her neck and eyes ached from watching the dash and the roadway in the darkness, and she needed rest.
The desk clerk at the ďLullaby InnĒ stared quizzically at her, but she pretended not to notice and filled out the guest register under a false name. She paid cash and took the room key without a word.
The small room reeked of stale cigarettes. The bedsheets were dingy, and the blankets had burn holes in them. There was no tub in the bathroom, and the shower was just a curtained-off corner.
Okay, so itís not the Hyatt-Regency. Iím too tired to care.
Stacey woke up in mid-afternoon, eating all the cookies and the rest of the chips, while downing some soda. Then she counted out the money left in the wallet.. I wonder how far I can go on 57 dollars and 36 cents? There are a couple credit cards here, but itís too risky to try using them.
She watched TV until dark, and was glad there was no mention of her on the news. For the first time she wondered what her mom was thinking and doing now that she knew Stacey had stolen her car and run away. I bet sheís got her friends praying for me. The thought was unexpectedly comforting.
Back on the freeway after filling the gas tank and buying some food at the convenience store, she headed for Bozeman to search for her cousin.
Her trip came to a screeching halt, literally, when a back tire blew, and she had to pull off to the side. What am I going to do now? She had no idea how to change a tire, but was going to try, when a state patrol car pulled in behind her.
She made a sudden decision as she walked over to him. ďHi, Iím Stacey Zurris, and Iíd like to call my mom.Ē
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