by Rebecca Hendricks
The tire goes, and I pull to the side and stop, clutch in neutral, pull the hand brake with its click click click set, high-beam clarity dropping into blackness. Crickets. The tinny purr of the little engine. My heart, pounding. I feel your eyes on me as you straighten from loading your bags into the van, starched camouflage, polished boots, wry smile, I gotta go, you’ll be fine. I will call.
I take a slow, deep breath. I’m shaking. How long have I been sitting here? I turn the key, the engine stops. I kill the lights. Tick, ping, tick, the engine cools. My eyes adjust to a bright moon, my white hands on the wheel. For a moment, I feel the touch of yours, fingers curling into my hair, thumb tracing ear lobe, face against face, it’s okay, you’re okay. I love you.
Out of the car now, rear hatch up. Where’s the flashlight? Don’t look toward the dark rustle, creak, shhhh of the swamp. The spare is underneath a pile of vacation junk I don’t want. I couldn’t keep waiting for your call, I had to get away, and now I can feel your arms wrapped around me, holding me close, salt tears on starched shoulder. Bye.
I’m back in the car. Doors locked, a blanket, moonlight on the empty seat beside me. You’ve been missing for twenty-seven days. What’s one more before I get to a phone and call the base again?
I know what they’ll say.
[Rebecca Hendricks has worked as a noodle-maker, audio editor, film grip, and secretary. She is currently working on both a GED and a Master's degree, and hopes someday to learn how to cook. She plans to win the lottery. "Runaway" is her second attempt at short fiction because, as the title of her blog reminds her daily, "how hard can it be?"]