Snakes and Pills

133 - chemistry

Gretchen handed the payment to the attendant. A crisp twenty, enough to nearly top off the tank in her car. No credit cards, that was obvious enough from the outset. Anything electronic would be way too traceable.

Even going with cash only, though, she realized there were still precautions she could take. Requesting a nice even amount, for starters. That way, she didn't have to wait for change. Anything that could lessen her interactions with other people. She even tried to not have too strong of an expression on her face or in her voice when she did have to deal with others.

Her aim was to make all interactions more ordinary and forgettable. Nothing that stands out or makes an impression, just quick, to the point, and done. Gretchen politely nodded as he thanked her for her patronage, then fired up the engine and pulled back out on to the road.

Instantly, she was alone once again. By now, she was getting used to this feeling, but those first few moments of transition after stopping for gas or a bite to eat were always jarring. Just her, empty fast food wrappers rattling around her car, and the open road.

Gretchen liked that this was a big place. This was big country, where she felt like she might honestly have a chance to disappear. The road never seemed to end, and as long as she kept on it, she felt the asphalt putting distance between herself and her problems.

Escape had seemed unobtainable when she first left town. An immigrant girl with zero survival instincts, what hope did she have? She figured that she'd be stopped within the day and that would be the end of this fantasy, a last-ditched lunge of a girl who messed up.

But now, Gretchen had logged fifteen days on the lam. Over two weeks, she could hardly believe the time that continued to pass by. She had traveled far enough that she no longer feared the sight of every car that slightly resembled a police cruiser. Against her own quickly-developed rules for survival, she even allowed herself to eat in at a diner last night. She had considered it a bit of a two-week "celebration," though she loathed using that word. She was so sick of truck stop sandwiches and drive-thru combos, the risk of capture was worth running for one freshly-cooked meal.

When and where she should stop was what occupied Gretchen's mind the most now. As she had never really imagined she would be successful at evading her pursuers, these concerns seemed none too pressing at the outset. She dared now to think that perhaps she would not be caught. It was a nice thought, but her plan couldn't be to just keep driving forever.

Logically, a big city would probably be for the best, as it would be easiest for her to blend in and disappear there. She might be able to find some employment there, enough to get a place to live and start all over again.

But Gretchen had never lived in such a place. The small town she had left was all that she knew. Her mind wandered to memories of that place, the people and the things that she had left behind.

Throughout her flight, she really tried hard to not think about that, but whatever mental defenses she tried to erect, her consciousness always found a way back. Faces she would never see again. Words unspoken, works unfinished, plans interrupted.

On the first day of her drive, she had risked one phone call, from a payphone, to him. He implored her to just give herself up, that she could explain it was all a mistake and everyone would go easier on her.

Gretchen wanted to believe him, but she was too scared. She pressed on.


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