Blood rushed to her face, causing the crimson outline of his hand to nearly glow in the moonlight. Tears stung her eyes as she reached up, tracing his fingerprints on her cheek. She had hoped that the last time would be the last time. She breathed heavily, her heart pounding in her chest. Her mind raced and her hands shook. She gazed out over the water, wishing that it could wash away her sins.

She stumbled forward, pulling the large bag behind her, and stopped on the shore, letting the waves crash over her feet. She closed her eyes and stayed there for a moment, savoring the silence of the world around her. She heaved the bag into the lake, pushing it as far out as she could before it began to sink. She caught herself praying, which struck her as odd. She was never a religious person, but this moment seemed to call for a prayer. She couldn’t think of anything to say aloud and she was afraid to break the silence. 

Instead, she sat down in the sand, waves crashing around her, and stretched out. She took a deep breath and pushed herself forward, into the water. She floated there for a long time, letting the chill sink into her bones. Her hair flayed out above her and, at a glance, anyone walking by might think she was dead. She didn’t care. She just wanted this night to be over. 

After a few minutes, she made her way to the shore, knowing that she couldn’t stay on the lake forever. She rang the water out of her dress, letting it splash against the sand, before pacing quickly to her car. She held her breath as the engine turned over; the clanking finally breaking the silence she so desperately tried to salvage.

Before doing anything else, she flipped the mirror down, the light illuminating her ashen skin. Her dark hair framed her face; her eyes sunken and purple from too many long nights. The handprint, once red, had faded into a deep blue. She reached up, her fingers barely brushing her skin, to caress her throbbing jaw. Shaking her head, tears returned to her eyes. She beat her hands against the steering wheel, narrowly missing the horn, and yanked her seatbelt down, clicking it with vigor. 

The roads were barren as she drove; the occasional truck broke the endless blackness that stretched out before her. She wondered if the night would ever end or if, like the bag she dumped in the lake, she was doomed to spend the rest of her life in the dark. She clenched her hands around the steering wheel, continuing on. 

She began to run out of gas at the same time that the sky began to lighten. She scoffed, not wishing to stop. She needed to keep moving forward, but she wouldn’t get very far without her car. 

She pulled into a lone gas station and turned the engine off. She sat there for a long time, her head resting on the steering wheel, and listened to the silence. No birds chirped, no bells chimed. Nothing existed to distract her from the never-ending thoughts bouncing inside of her head. 

She sucked in a breath and sat up straight, keeping her head bowed so that her hair could cover her face. She snatched her credit card from her wallet and got out of the car, her feet touching the ground again after hours of being on the road. She turned, pulling the nozzle from the pump before realizing that she couldn’t use her credit card. She tossed it back into the car, pulling crumpled cash from her center console. She took a deep breath and stepped toward the station, praying that the attendant wouldn’t notice the deep bruise donning the side of her face. 

“Can I help you?” The attendant’s voice was bright and cheery. 

“Yes, um…” She kept her head low, counting her cash as quickly as she could. “Thirty on pump…” She turned to check the pump number. 

“Five?” The attendant responded, holding out a hand to receive the cash. She nodded, passing the money along and turning to leave. She caught a glimpse of the candy shelves, her stomach rumbling for the first time all night. She considered buying something to eat for a moment, but decided to leave it behind. She really needed to get going. 

“Did you need a receipt?”

She shook her head, the door ringing to mark her exit, and hurried back to her car. Once the pump turned off, she slid back inside the safety of her car and sat, frozen for a moment, as she considered that she had no idea where to go. 

She shook the thoughts from her mind, racing out of the gas station as quickly, and as safely as she could. Can’t draw attention, she thought, Have to keep moving. She kept driving, exits signs and road markers becoming a blur. She didn’t stop again until the gas light came on again. 

She scoffed, knowing that she would have to stop someplace to eat and get gas, but not wanting to stop again. She needed to keep moving forward. She pushed it, continuing on as far and as fast as she could, but the engine began to sputter. She would have to stop or keep moving on foot. She decided, again, that having the car was a better option. 

She pulled into another gas station; this one stood with a diner and a body shop on either side of it. Her stomach grumbled at the sight of the diner and she knew she would have to eat something. She decided that this was as good a place as any. If she was going to be sitting in front of people, though, she needed to cover up the bruise on her face. 

She turned, pulling her makeup bag from the backseat, and flipped the visor down so she could look in the mirror once more. She caked on makeup, trying to cover the deep purple handprint on her face to no avail. No matter how much she put on, the handprint always seemed to shine through. She clenched her fists around the makeup brushes, throwing them to the floorboard. She pressed her head in her hands, trying to think of a better solution. 

She pulled a summer scarf from her backseat, wrapping it around her head, pressing her hair against her injured cheek. When she looked in the mirror, she couldn’t see the bruise anymore. She pulled on her sunglasses, hoping that they would help hide her sunken eyes and mask her pallor. When she was satisfied with how she looked, she stepped out of her car, her knees creaking with the effort. Next time, she would have to stop sooner. 

She paced quickly to the diner, the wind threatening to pull the scarf from her head, and took a seat near the door. She looked out the window and imagined, for a moment, that he was out there. He was standing next to her car and waiting for her to come out. She squeezed her eyes shut and pursed her lips, willing the vision away. She knew that he couldn’t be there. 

“What’re you havin’, hon?” The waitress smiled wide. She returned the smile, her face aching with the effort. 

“I don’t know just yet. Could I get some coffee, though?” 

The waitress nodded and left her alone with her menu. She gazed down, the words swimming beneath her eyes. When the waitress returned and poured her coffee, she pointed at the menu and told the waitress that she wanted whatever it was she pointed to. The waitress nodded, scribbling down her order. She poured cream and sugar into her coffee, stirring idly until the waitress returned with her food. 

“Thank you,” she said, reflexively. She kept her head low and avoided eye contact. 

“You aren’t alone, you know,” the waitress smiled warmly, keeping her voice low. 

“What do you mean?” She glanced up at the waitress, taking great care to keep her face covered. 

“We see a lot of women like you.” The waitress slid the receipt on the table, a business card jutting out below it. “A lot of us have been there. Running away from something.”

She kept her head down, pursing her lips and willing the woman to walk away. 

“We’re all running from something.” The waitress looked her in the eye and she finally saw it. The scar stretching around the waitress’ jaw to her ear was hard to miss. How, then, had she missed it? 

“You can’t help me,” she whispered, pulling back into herself as she remembered the severity of her crime. Maybe this woman standing before her knew what she had been through, but no one could forgive the measures she took. 

“I’m a widow, too.” Another woman appeared at her table. 

“How did you know?” She asked, spinning her ring around her finger. 

“It’s in how you look around.”

She nodded and felt compelled to tell them her story, why she was running away. She doubted that they could understand and knew that they would, probably, turn her in, but she didn’t think she could live with the guilt anymore. If she was arrested, so be it. 

“Can I tell you a secret?”

August 19, 2020 17:40

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Aysha Sohail
00:15 Aug 27, 2020

I love how descriptive your story is. You really feel a sense of urgency and tension throughout the story. Great job!


T.D.N. Bales
13:28 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you! I really appreciate your comment so much!


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Angela Palmer
18:51 Aug 23, 2020

Love this. Your imagery is great and I love the little hints of what could come after those fateful words. I also really enjoyed how your character ended up in a safe place on accident and almost unwillingly.


T.D.N. Bales
18:09 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much! You have no idea what that means to me!


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