Authors: Elena Andrews
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Teen & Young Adult, #Action & Adventure, #Survival Stories
Run Like Hell
Copyright © 2012 Elena Andrews
All rights reserved.
Author’s Note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. And any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For my Family & Friends.
Your support is monumental.
“Hindsight is always 20/20.”
My father’s said it a million times but I never knew what it meant.
Now I know.
“No, don’t die on me now!”
Panic clenches my chest and I glance around for any sign of help. There isn’t a soul in sight. Fear traps my breath. I’m alone and unprepared. Darkness surrounds me. This can’t be happening. Not tonight.
The car slows, despite the pressure I’m applying to the gas pedal. “Please, please, please,” I beg, wishing my pleas will miraculously help. One glance at the console confirms my fear. The gas tank is empty.
“Of all nights,” I groan as I carefully steer the car to the side of the road. Its pitch black outside and I’m alone on the rural road. I turn on the hazards, hoping the hypnotic, red, flashing lights will persuade a passerby to respond to my distress.
So much for my party plans. I shut the engine off and lean back against the headrest. Now what?
My iPhone rests on the passenger seat where I tossed it after I bought dinner, a Diet Coke and Snickers candy bar from a convenience store. Will Jack have his cell phone with him? Not likely. His parents monitor his phone usage despite him never abusing his phone privileges. My boyfriend has the clearest conscious of anyone I know. Traci will have her mobile phone on her. I’ll beg her to leave the party and bring me a gallon of gas. What are best friends for?
I dial her cell phone but the call goes straight to voicemail. I don’t leave a message. Instead, I hang up and begin to text her, but I’m distracted when a car’s headlights reflect off the rearview mirror. Help has arrived. No sooner am I elated than disappointment sets in. The car doesn’t stop or slow down, but continues past me. What’s wrong with people these days?
I can hear my mother’s lecture now. She’d be furious if she knew I’m stranded on the side of the road in her new car, which I’m forbidden to drive. The lecture and the punishment will be infinite. She still blames me for totaling her old car, despite the fact that the other driver drove through a red light. At least Dad expressed concern in the emergency room when the doctor informed him I’d sustained only minor cuts and bruises. Mom, however, remained stern and barely shown any relief. I haven’t been allowed to drive since then, and the accident was months ago.
Better she doesn’t know I’m driving her car tonight. Come to think of it, I bet she purposely kept the tank on empty so I wouldn’t drive her new Honda Accord while she’s away. I can’t explain why we’re not close. Ever since I was six or seven she’s been distant with me and very critical of everything I do. She’s built a fortress around herself that’s become impenetrable. Over the years I’ve created my own wall, blocking her out as well. I can’t please her – ever. Thankfully, my dad has no walls when it comes to me. His arms are always open. Too bad he’s always traveling on business.
She and Dad are probably still on the plane, flying toward Chicago for his business trip. Mom couldn’t contain her excitement over joining in on his trip to the Windy City. Time away from me is the highlight of her trip.
My iPhone beeps, indicating an incoming text.
Sorry! Working ridiculously late tonight. See you tomorrow. Call me if you need me. Don’t find trouble like I would!
A silver lining! I forgot Aunt Rory’s supposed to come over tonight. Mom and Dad mentioned she would be watching me, their seventeen-year-old daughter, while they’re gone. I’ve been too preoccupied thinking about Chelsea’s party and my night with Jack to remember when they said she’d come over.
Aunt Rory is Mom’s much younger sister. She’s also cool, unlike Mom. She works at a law firm as a legal assistant, although most people think she works at a tattoo parlor. She has a sleeve of tattoos, plus several on her back. Asking Rory for help will obligate her to tell Mom. Rory working late tonight means she won’t know about this either. If she called the house, I’ll tell her I was sleeping or in the shower. I’m in the clear.
I read several texts from Traci, who arrived at the party earlier tonight.
Here now, see you soon.
The whole school is here! Text me when you arrive so I can find you.
Jack says “Hi”. He misses you. We both do.
Where are you???
After my parents left for the airport this afternoon, I napped and overslept. My evening plans were further delayed when Tiger, my three-year-old German shepherd dog, insisted on taking the long route around the neighborhood. Traci was supposed to pick me up, but I wasn’t ready in time so she asked me to meet her there. She promised Jaycee and Tonya she’d pick them up too and didn’t want to keep them waiting. Jack was going to the party with his friends. We planned to meet up at the party. I’m hoping I can make it there in time before everyone leaves.
I hadn’t planned on driving my mom’s car tonight. Traci must have assumed I was allowed since my parents are gone for the next five days. “Only drive the car in case of an emergency,” Dad warned. Chelsea’s party is an emergency – a social emergency.
I begin texting Traci back when I notice headlights. Will this car stop? I observe it approaching in the rearview mirror. It appears to be slowing down. Nervous, I lock the doors. Slowly, it passes by and the driver, a young guy, looks directly at me.
The car parks in front of mine and a guy steps out. My headlights illuminate him. He’s wearing jeans, a heavy metal t-shirt, worn sneakers, and appears to be in his twenties. He has brown hair and no distinguishable marks. Undeniably average looking.
He smiles as he approaches and, before I know it, he’s tapping on my window.
“Need some help?” He peers in at me.
As anxious as I am to go to the party and for help to arrive, I’m also uncertain. I realize I’m biased as to whom I want to accept help from. My ideal rescuers would be a cop, a tow truck driver, or an elderly person. Can I trust the non-threatening appearance of the man at my window?
I hold up my iPhone and lie. “I have a tow truck coming, but thanks.”
Regardless of how friendly he looks, I don’t know this guy and don’t want to get out of the car. He shrugs and begins to inspect the car.
“You don’t have a flat. Engine trouble?”
Now he’s looking through the passenger side window. I wish he’d go away.
Again, I hold up my phone. “I’m okay. Thanks for your help. A tow truck will be here any minute.”
His eyes dart around the interior of the car, focusing on my purse tossed on the passenger seat. His gaze settles on me again. I shake my head yes and he finally walks back to his car. As he drives away, my phone rings. Traci’s calling.
“Where are you?” she asks as soon as I answer. The music from the party is blaring in the background.
“I’m out of gas,” I yell.
“I’m out of gas.”
“Morgan, I can’t hear you. Are you going to be here soon?” she yells back.
This is futile. She can’t hear me and I can’t hear her. I tell her I’ll text her and hang up as she’s still talking.
The battery indicator on my cell phone flashes. I’m losing power now? I know there isn’t a charger in the car. I text Traci, telling her my car’s on empty. I’m about to send another text telling her where I am, but as I hit send my iPhone shuts down. I don’t know if the text was sent or not.
Damn. The stress builds again in my chest. Breathing deeply, I try to calm my nerves, but it’s hard being surrounded by this stifling darkness. The only light on the road is from my own car’s hazard lights and headlights, which I haven’t yet turned off.
My eagerness to party got me into this mess. I’d assured my parents I would be fine but hours after they leave I’m stranded on road. This situation could’ve been avoided if I’d checked the gas gauge and my cell phone battery level before leaving the house. Another of my mother’s lectures comes to mind. “Morgan,” she reprimands, “you have to be more prepared.” A favorite lecture of hers. I’m not like her, though. Living isn’t always about crossing something off a to-do list. The best times I’ve had growing up are the events I never planned.
Now, I’m alone in the dark – without a plan. Aside from the guy who peered in my window and offered to help, no other car has driven by. The trunk. I haven’t checked the trunk yet. Jumping out of the car, I pop it open but am disappointed to find it empty. No gas container, no flares, no flashlight. Shaking my head, I slam the trunk shut and slide back into the driver’s seat.
I need gas but I don’t have a container. Nervously biting my nails, I attempt to think of a plan but nothing comes to mind. Leaving the car and walking in the dark isn’t an option. I’m safer waiting here. How long can I feasibly keep the headlights on before they drain the car battery?
I’ve been on the side of the road for exactly an hour and fifteen minutes, based on the digital clock in the console. An oncoming car provides a sense of false hope as it passes by. Ten minutes later, two more cars drive by but they don’t stop or slow down. I can sit here and do nothing or be more proactive.
Deciding to flag down the next vehicle, I step out of the car and wait. The night is cool and quiet. The air smells similar to the pine-scented air freshener Mom bought for the downstairs bathroom. Thankfully, no wildlife rustles in the nearby bushes.
Headlights appear around a bend in the road and I wave my hands excitedly. I brace myself against the trunk of my car as the car slows down and parks behind me. I’m blinded by the headlights. The engine shuts off, followed by a car door slamming. Gravel crunches beneath the footsteps. A dark figure approaches. I shield my eyes from the glaring light with my hand and try to discern the driver and the make of the car. Recognition sets in.
“Your help didn’t arrive yet?” His hands dig into his pockets and he stops about ten feet in front of me. The headlights from his car illuminate him from behind and he appears much larger than he did before.
“Not yet,” I respond. My options are limited at this point. Perhaps he’s a nice guy who wants to help me.
“Are you out of gas?” he asks.
I nod my head.
“Okay. Well, I know there’s a gas station a few miles ahead. Do you have a container in your car?”
I shake my head no.
“No problem, you can use mine.” His brow creases in concern as he pulls his wallet from his back pocket. Looking inside the wallet, he now appears apologetic. “I don’t have any cash or credit cards on me.”
I remember the money Dad left on top of my dresser. I forgot to put the cash in my wallet. When I left the house, I only had two dollars on me, enough to buy the soda and candy bar. Could this get any worse?
“I don’t have any cash either,” I admit.
“Do you have a credit or debit card? I could use it to pay for the gas.”
It’s a reasonable request considering the circumstances, but I can’t hand a stranger my credit card, a card Mom is a joint account holder on. He must sense my hesitation because he changes the subject.
“Are you from Upper Creek High School? My younger brother goes there.”