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She looked away from the clock for a while, staring out her window at the dark and deserted streets.
Soon, she thought anxiously.
Two more minutes.
She stood and grabbed her duffel bag of clothes and bathroom necessities. She snatched her keys from the nightstand, poised to run out the door.
“One,” she whispered as the minute changed.
She ran. Through the bedroom door. Down the stairs. Into the night. She put a very short note into the mailbox on her way. It told her mother and father that she wasn’t coming back. Not as long as she was alive, at least.
She got into her old station wagon and the car sputtered and died when she turned the keys. She cursed under her breath and went back into the house for the keys to her father’s BMW. She tripped over the threshold on her way out the door. She could hear her father’s heavy footsteps from down the hall and sprinted to the flashy black car. Her hands shook as she fumbled to put the key into the ignition. As soon as it was in, the car was quietly starting up.
Her father ran out the door. He started shouting at her and gesturing wildly to get out of the car, his face purple in anger. No hint of any misgivings stirred in her thoughts. She had been waiting for this moment for fifteen years. There was no way in hell she was turning back now.
She tearfully turned away from her life and stomped on the gas pedal. She wouldn’t stop until she reached her destination. Where that was, she didn’t even know. Not until the destination found her would she have any idea. The only thing it had to have was the promise of a new start in her life. No reminders of her ugly past. No abusive fathers and mothers who didn’t love her. No more explanations. Just life.
She passed through state after state, only stopping for gas, food, and water. She wouldn’t give into fatigue. She wouldn’t be weak anymore.
For three days straight, she drove. She reached a small fishing town somewhere in Boston on the East Coast when she finally stopped. It was midday and the harbor was bursting with life. Men were hauling nets of flipping fish. Children were playing tag. Mothers were chastising them for getting in the way. She saw perfect nuclear families everywhere she looked. It made her angry to see that and know that her life had never been so flawless.
She walked over to the edge of one of the docks and stared out at the vast expanse of deep blue ocean.
“Who are you?”
She jumped, startled, and began to lose her balance. She flailed her arms, trying to stay on the dock. Eventually she ended up leaning too far off the edge to be able to get back on. She toppled into the freezing cold waters of March.
Before she could get too far underwater, she was being pulled up by someone. Whoever it was brought her to the surface, where she coughed and sputtered, and then lifted her by the waist so that she was sitting on the edge of the dock. She flinched away from the person’s hands as they grabbed her where most of the bruises from her father’s beatings were.
“Are you okay?” a deep voice asked urgently.
She rubbed the excess water from her eyes so that she could clearly see the person sitting next to her. It was a boy who looked no older than twenty. She jumped away from him in fear, just as she did when she was around any other man. His big brown eyes widened in concern, causing his shaggy brown hair to fall into them.
“Thanks,” she mumbled, standing up and running back to the BMW.
She jumped in, ignorant of the boy’s shouts to her and not caring about how wet or freezing she was, and started the car. She drove away with renewed energy from her plunge into icy waters.
This time she drove for only two hours until she reached what looked like a deserted house down a road with barely any cars on it. She parallel parked in front of it and killed the engine. Thankful for the deep tint in the windows of the car, she changed into a dry pair of sweatpants and a torn t-shirt in the back seat. Then she lay down across the back seats and fell into a deep slumber filled with frightening images of young men hitting her repeatedly before pushing her into the freezing ocean.
Perhaps this is a good time to introduce myself. My name is Brianna Peterson and this is the story of my life between the time that I ran away from my abusive father and unloving mother when I turned eighteen at precisely 3:21 in the morning to now, only fourteen months later, when I am happily engaged to the man who saved my life. It is a story of cruelty, fear, trust, and love. But most importantly, it is a story of change. Change for the good.
She woke to a middle-aged man knocking on her window. She jumped when she saw him and scrambled to the front seat. She hurriedly started the car and sped away. The man remained standing where he was before she left, his fist still raised in front of himself.
She drove, not knowing where she was going, until it felt right to stop. She got out of the car and looked around at her surroundings. Her heart sank.
She was back in the small fishing town in Boston. The boy who saved her from the ocean was in this town.
She hopped back into the car and drove away.
The cycle continued for four months. She drove for as long as she could, stopped for food, water, and gas, drove until she was exhausted, found somewhere to park and sleep for a while, and was woken up by someone, usually a man, threatening to call the police if she stayed any longer. Then she drove away and began the cycle again.
She had traveled through virtually the entire United States by the end of July. Every state except for the one she began at, North Carolina, had been visited at least once. She never went back to the fishing town in Boston, fearful of all the men there. There was also the fear of seeing the boy who rescued her from the ocean keeping her from returning to the town.
Not knowing or caring about where she was going again, she somehow ended up back in the town anyway. She needed food and water, so she had to get out and go to the closest convenience store. While she was walking there, she thought about her life.
I grew up with my mother and father in a two-story ranch house in North Carolina. From the time when I was three years old, my father had beaten me daily, sometimes twice a day if he was angry. My mother never cared. She enjoyed watching. It was like her television entertainment since we didn’t have a TV. For as long as I can remember, I had always been planning to leave as soon as I was eighteen and legally an adult. I counted down the years, months, days, hours, and eventually the minutes, too, until I turned eighteen. Being born early in the morning had its advantages. When the day finally came for me to leave and not come back, it was an added bonus to not have to sneak past my mother and father in broad daylight while they were wide awake.
I had planned to leave in my old station wagon. I only had it because my mother and father didn’t want to seem like bad parents to the neighbors. They bought me the cheapest piece of junk they could find. I never even had an allowance as a child. My father told me that it was because I was a bad child. Then he would hit me. I usually had bruises all over my body and cuts to match. I had never had any friends, so there was no one to be concerned for me.
My life before I left was a living hell. Everywhere I went, I still had the fear of my father finding me on my chest. He left me with mental scars. I was absolutely petrified of going near any other man, thinking they would hit me as well. But at least I was alive and my scars and bruises had faded. The only remnants lay embedded in my memory, where they would inconceivably stay forever.
When she walked into the convenience store, she turned around and began walking back out. The boy was there, standing at the register.
“Hey!” he called. “Wait!”
She feigned deafness and continued walking away. He caught up to her and grabbed her arm. She flinched away from his grip and he loosened his hold when he saw her face.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “You’re the girl who fell into the water in March, right?”
She nodded slightly.
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re okay,” he sighed taking the hand that was holding her arm and running it through his chocolate-colored hair. She took the opportunity to take a step away from him so that she was beyond his reach. His eyes followed the movement curiously. “What’s the matter? I’m not going to bite.”
He smiled gently at her, hoping she would relax. She didn’t.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, more gently.
She shook her head, wishing more than anything that she could just drive away.
“Okay, then.” He seemed slightly frustrated. “What’s your name?”
“Brianna,” she whispered.
“Brianna,” he repeated. “That’s a nice name. I’m Trevor.”
He held out his hand for her to shake but she just shied away from it. He returned his hand to his side, confused by her strange behavior.
“So…” he began, trying to make small talk before she could get a chance to run away again. “What were you coming in here for?”
“Food,” she mumbled. “Water.”
“Oh. Well, let me take care of that for you.” With that, he walked away towards the back of the store.
She took a deep breath while he was gone, trying her hardest to relax and fight the urge to run from her problems again. She had wanted so badly to be strong for a change, but here she was, wanting to run away from every single problem she faced. Trevor came back with a huge pack of water bottles and enough food to last her a week balanced in his tanned muscular arms. He set it all on the counter and waited for the cashier to ring it all up.
She made up her mind and walked over to him.
“Can we start over?” she asked quietly.
“Um, sure,” he replied.
“I’m Brianna Peterson,” she said.
“Trevor Carter,” he said, sticking his hand out again.
Reluctantly, she shook it. His hand was warm and soft around hers. They were nothing like her father’s rough ones, and that comforted her immensely.
The cashier finished ringing everything up and she reached for her dwindling amount of cash in the pocket of her jeans. Trevor grabbed her hand to stop her.
“I’ll pay,” he told her firmly.
She tried to protest, but he wouldn’t hear it. After he paid, he offered to carry the load to her car. She accepted gratefully, leading him to the black BMW. She popped the trunk and he put everything away inside it. After he closed it, he stepped back to admire the car.
“Wow,” he breathed. “This must’ve cost a fortune.”
“It’s my father’s car,” she told him softly.
“Where is he?” he wondered. “I didn’t see him with you in March either.”
“He lives in North Carolina,” she said.
“But how old are you?”
They continued their conversation until the sky darkened and the sun began to set. They talked about their interests, hobbies, everything. When they were done talking and stood in silence for a few seconds, she worried about when the topic of their families would come up. Nevertheless, she knew she could trust Trevor. An afternoon spent talking to him was enough to show that. He had taught her to laugh and smile again. She knew she could tell him about her mother and father.
She did not know that he would react in the way he did. His fists clenched tight and he looked the angriest she had seen him. When the anger faded from his eyes, it was replaced with a sorrow so deep that it had her own heart aching. She hated to see him that sad. He tentatively reached towards her so he could rest his hand lightly on her shoulder.
She didn’t flinch. She just stared into his brown eyes, intently waiting for the sadness in them to vanish.
She didn’t even jump or try to move away when he brought her into his arms in a gentle hug. She finally felt safe there.
Trevor and I progressed as friends in the next two weeks. He allowed me to stay in the apartment of his house since I had nowhere to go still. I trusted him with my life. He loved to make me smile every second of the day. Soon, his arms began to linger around me when we hugged and he seemed to become very forgetful when I was around him.
The first time he tried to kiss me was on Valentine’s Day, almost a year after I left my mother and father. I had become very trusting of him, but still wasn’t ready to make that big jump from friends to couple. That night, he took me out to dinner at the fanciest restaurant in the town. Just before dessert, he stood up in front of me and got down on one knee. He asked me to marry him. By now I knew that I loved him.
I said yes.
Going to the car after dessert, I could have sworn I saw my father outside the restaurant. I brushed it off, thinking I was so happy that I was seeing things.
On the way home from the restaurant, we both began to get dizzy. Trevor pulled over to the side of the road and called for an ambulance. Before we could even hear the sirens, he said he loved me with all of his heart. I told him I loved him even more. We both passed out.
The next thing either of us knew, we were driving again. We were going to a very bright light. When we passed through it to the other side of it, we were back in North Carolina. We appeared to be floating above everyone in the car. He wasn’t steering anymore, yet we were still moving. I vaguely recognized the way to my father’s house.
I said I wasn’t going back as long as I was alive. That was an entirely true statement.
The car turned of its own free will and took us back to where our bodies were still in the car. The ambulance was just coming as we looked down through a haze.
We understood then that we were most likely in heaven. We both watched the autopsy of our bodies a few days later. It was poison in the food. It turned out my father was there after all. He somehow managed to get poison into our food.
After the autopsy, we went back to North Carolina. I was facing my problems at last. Never again was I going to drive.
That is my story. As stated earlier, it was a story of change. Trevor helped to change me more than I ever thought was possible in my state of mind. The wedding is next week.