Mandy stormed out the door and didn't look back. She slammed it so hard it shook the foundation of the house.
Determined to miss her parent's loop to find her, she feigned the road, and took a bruised path of tall weeds toward a cornfield.
Stars blanketed the sky, guiding her sliver of freedom, which helped secure her footing on loose soil. Confidence grew through cornrows of slender stalks. She widened her eyes for the movements of raccoons, and such.
Above the hump from the next road over, she made her home seem a distant galaxy: light years away.
Lights from a vehicle climbed over her. Tires squawked, skidding into gravel. The car missed her by inches. Only then, did she realize, she was nearly invisible dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt.
A gravel cloud swelled to a mist of lights, and a bone thin man in his twenties surfaced: A boyish white ivory face. "Girl, you scared me good. You all right."
"Guess so?" She turned against the light.
"Are you lookin for a ride?" He emerged from his taillights.
Yeah, sure." She didn't sound sure.
"Where are you're folks?"
"They died." Her heart felt like a sinker tied to an ocean when she said it. She wanted to take it back, but before she could, she found herself in his car belted down, stitched in.
"I see." He smirked. "If you're homeless, I could afford you a room for the night, and get myself another. No big deal."
She heard the door-lock snap, and hooked a reflexive arc toward it.
From a nervous sniffle, she looked at him through the dim light. "It's okay, safety first," he said, and momentarily placed the tips of his fingers on her left knee.
They traveled this dark corridor, as if inside a suffocating bottle, with windows closed, and fermented smells. The world outside became a hazy globe.
They past a wedge of trees, until signs emerged, intersections: one, a red neon sign that said, "Motel Seven."
"I'm a salesman. I stop here a lot. They know me. Strange folks. They have symbols of Jesus all over the place, even a mural behind their office booth. Can you believe it?" He shook his head. "I think it's a picture of Jesus at his last supper? If you ask me, the owner looks like he's got one foot in the grave. Spooky place."
His laughter was torture, and he endlessly scratched the inside of his legs. She wanted that door unlocked. Her heart was pounding, hammering the walls of her chest, like it could explode. Click. She tumbled out the door in the cool damp air.
"Wait here," he said. "I promised you'd be safe."
She hesitated, debated in her mind, until he gamely walked out with two fat keys, and dangled hers out front, as if it would hypnotize her tired eyes. He walked over to the porch swing, under a lamp where moths danced in a death circle. "Here ya go. Can you believe it, you get lucky number seven at the very end."
She glared at him, with a rebel face, one her parent's understood.
"Okay, doll. I get it, too tired for company." He backed up to number five "Sweet dreams," he said, and cracked open his door.
When she opened her door it cried, as if it stood frozen for years. She slammed it shut. A picture with an empty cross fell from the wall. She took a deep measured breadth against the door. "Phew!"
It started as a gentle knock, but grew with intensity. Back pedaling, she instinctively moved into the bathroom, where she locked it, found a stool, and placed it in the bathtub, to reach the small window half opened.
The pounding grew louder like a battering ram. The outside door caved in.
Prying the screen with her fingers, she discarded it in the tub. Pulling at ridge of the window, she held there, until exhausted, fallen, trapped, and sunken into an embryo. In the corner of the tub, she whimpered beneath her fisted hands, head drawn below her knees. "Please don't? PLEASE DON'T?"
The bathroom doorknob turned until stripped open.
"Mandy! It's dad. It's okay baby. The owner called."
Her body shuddered, as if having tumbled through an icy waterfall, but surfaced, glad to be alive.
"Let's go home sweetheart." Her father gathered her into his arms.
"Yes daddy. Oh yes. I want to go home. I just want to go home."
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