Letters of Endearment

It's about a girl who runs away from her home in Chicago and hitch-hikes from these three guys only a little older than she is. But she's in for the surprise of her life when she discovers who these guys really are.
Hope you enjoy this.

I shiver and punch my lumpy duffle bag into a softer lumpy bag, but it doesn't work.  My bag is just as lumpy as ever.  I sigh, defeated, and lay down anyway.

Calling tonight chilly would be an understatement.  Between the cold autumn breeze slipping under my skin and the hard bench making my back stiff with pain, tonight is not turning out to be a good night for me.

"Excuse me, miss.  You can't sleep here."  Someone says when I'm almost asleep.  I shriek and fall onto the sidewalk, my head hitting the bench on the way down.

"What do you mean, 'I can't sleep here?'  This is a public bench, and I am the public."  I growl, rubbing my head.

"Miss, are you okay?"  He asks, totally ignoring my own question.

"I'm fine, and will you stop calling me 'Miss', you sound like a--"  I stop when I look up and see who it is I'm talking to.  He's a police officer, and his mouth is set in a hard line.  This is just another night for him.

I mutter a swear word under my breath, though I'm sure he hears me anyway.  "I'm sorry, officer."

He nods, still unsmiling.  "How old are you, ma'am?"

"I'm eighteen.  If you give me one minute, I can explain.  You see--"

"Miss, I don't care why you're here tonight.  This may be a public bench, but the public does not want to see a bum like you sleeping here."

"I am not a bum!"  I protest.

"Find a shelter for the night, if you have to; just don't sleep here.  Good night."  He continues.  It's like I never said anything at all, and I am left, dumb-struck, on the sidewalk as he walks back to his car.

I grumble some nasty things, finishing the sentence I cut off earlier, and pick my self up.  Unbelievable.

I sit down on the bench with a sigh.  Seconds later, I stand up again and sling my duffle bag over my shoulder, wondering what to do now.  

I walk for a while, passing countless old buildings.  The apartments are so close, you could spit on your neighbor's window.  I don't know where I am anymore, but I  don't care.  The cold drives everything else out of my mind, and after a while I'm not even sure of where I am.

"No! No, no no no no no, please no!  This can't be happening!"  Someone shouts from down the street.  I jump and stumble into a trash can left out on the sidewalk.  The metal lid clangs to the ground in a sudden burst of startling noise.  Quickly, I put it back and look around.  The man screaming at his truck doesn't even notice, and neither does anyone else, apparently.

As I stare at him, an idea pops into my head.  Against my better judgment, I cross the street and tap on his shoulder.  He jumps and swings his fist around, almost hitting me.  For once, I'm glad I'm not as tall as normal people.

"Whoa, watch it there.  Maybe I can help; you know, if you don't knock me out first."  He looks me up and down, sizing me up.

"You?  What can you do?"  He scoffs.  He underestimates me, and the urge to prove him wrong is suddenly overwhelming.

"Suffice it to say that I'm really good with cars.  So, what's wrong with your truck?  I can help."  His mouth presses into a thin line.  He looks suspicious of me, and I don't blame him.  

"Where does a girl like you learn about cars?"  The question catches me off guard.  I was expecting him to ask me what I wanted.

"My dad owned an auto repair shop."  I answer simply.

"So why aren't you with him now, instead of wandering the streets and talking to strangers?"

"I'm sorry, I was under the impression that you were in a tight spot.  I'm just trying to help you out.  Besides" I add quietly, "cemeteries aren't my thing."

He stares at me, blankly at first, and then says "Oh."  He doesn't apologize, and I'm glad.  "Dead battery."

I snort.  "Easy fix.  You got jumper cables, right?"

"Yeah, but unless you have a car in that duffle bag of yours, they're useless."

After giving him the evil eye, I look around.  The man's truck is stopped just in front of a drive way occupied by a white car.  "This looks like a real car to me,"  I point to it.

"You don't honestly expect me to break into someone's car, do you?  No thanks, I'll just call a tow truck."  I ignore him and examine the white car.  The driver's door is unlocked, and the keys are in the ignition.  I tell him this and reach inside, popping the hood.

"At this time of night?  You'll be stuck here until morning, and it'll cost you several hundred.  Don't know about you, but I sure don't have that kind of money to throw around.  Grab your cables and open her up,"  I say.  Reluctantly, he obliges.  In just seconds, I have the cables attached and both cars running.  While we wait, I ask him where he's going.  

"How do you know I'm going anywhere?"  He says.  He eyes me suspiciously.

I shrug.  "You have packed bags in the back of your truck, and your plate is from Ohio."

"Fair enough.  I'm leaving in the morning for Indiana,"  He replies.

I've heard enough and nod.  My legs move without me telling them to and I find myself sitting on the curb, hugging my knees.

In a few more minutes, his truck is running again.  "You left the lights on, didn't you," I guess.  He nods grudgingly.

"I need a pen, and a ten dollar bill," I announce, digging into my pocket for an old receipt to write on.

He retrieves a pen from his dash board.  I take it and begin to write:

My sincerest apologies, but we had to use your car to jump-start our truck.  Your unlocked doors saved us, though I don't suggest continuing with this practice.  From now on, you should keep your keys with you and the doors locked.  This is Chicago, after all, and you're just asking for your car to be stolen.  Lucky for you we're honest people.  We've left you a ten in payment.  Thanks for understanding.

I smile to myself, imagining their reaction in the morning.  "Do you have a ten?" I ask again.

"I'll give you more than twenty dollars for your trouble."  He says, taking a dark wallet from his back pocket.

"I don't want your money.  The ten is for these fools,"  I say, indicating the owners of the white car.  

"Then what do you want?"  he asks, handing the bill to me.  I place the receipt and the money on the driver's seat and shut the door.

"I want you to take me with you."

"No, I can't do that.  Sorry.  How much do you want?"

"I told you, I don't want your money.  I just saved you several hundred dollars and a lot of time.  You owe me.  Please, I can't stay here.  I promise, I won't bother you.  You won't even know I'm with you.  I'll be as quiet as a mouse."

"Mice are actually very noisy."

"It's a figure of speech, and I'm begging you.  I'm eighteen, it's not like you'll be accused of kidnapping me or anything.  I won't ask you for anything, please.  Take me with you."  I take a deep breath to calm myself.  

"How do you know I'm not a criminal or anything?  Didn't your parents tell you not to talk to strangers?"

"Are you a rapist?  Or a serial killer?  Have you any intention of hurting me?  Besides, I am legally old enough to decide whether I want to listen to my mom or not."

"What if I'm not going where you want to go"  He asks.  

"I don't even know where I want to go."

"What could be so bad that you'd rather be alone in a strange city than here?"  He asks.  I don't answer, and he sighs.  "Fine, get in."

I suppress my grin and open the door.  "I'm staying in a hotel for the night, and we'll leave early.  You can get a room for the night."

"Don't you think that if I had the money for a hotel room, I would be there now, instead of wandering the streets?"

"Then I'll cover it."

"Absolutely not!  I'm a hitch-hiker, not a charity case.  I'll be comfortable with a carpeted floor and a pillow."  He doesn't say anything as he pulls away.

"What's your name?" he asks me when he pulls into a parking lot a few minutes later.  The engine shuts off and there's a moment of silence.

"Grace."

"I'm Tommy.  You'll have to be quiet when we go in.  The guys are probably asleep already.  I'll introduce you in the morning."

"Guys?"  I ask, wondering if I should've accepted his offer to get my own room.  "Will there be enough room for us all in here?"  I look around and notice a guitar case in the back seat.  

He laughs.  "This is my brother's truck.  He's swinging by in the morning to get it."  I nod, but doubt he can see me in the dark.  Out of the back seat, he grabs his guitar and a suit case, and leaves the rest.  I wonder if it's all his, or if the stuff belongs to his brother, but it's none of my business and so I don't ask. 

"Do you play?"  I ask to disrupt the quiet, following him across the lot with my bag slung over my shoulder.  My bag is really light, and nearly everything in it is dirty.  I never thought about how I would wash my clothes.

He snorts as if he can't believe I thought of such a stupid question.  "You don't recognize me?"

I shake my head, looking at him as we enter the lobby.  I see him properly for the first time.  He has piercing blue eyes and hair so dark it's almost black.  He's at least 5'9", a whole six inches taller than me.  Six inches makes a huge difference.  I have never seen this man before in my life, I'm sure of it.  "Should I?"  I ask finally.

He grins, shaking his head.  "Are you serious right now?"  When I don't say anything, he smiles to his shoe laces.  "Yeah, you could say I play a little."  His laughter is soft.  I don't understand the joke.  

The receptionist behind the desk looks up from her magazine, in the middle of blowing a bubble with her bubble gum.  She tenses when she sees us, her eyes flashing.  She's glaring at me, an unnerving, hungry stare.  I shiver, wondering what her problem is, and look away.  Tommy doesn't even notice.

I glance at him, expecting to see the side of his face.  Instead, his eyes meet mine, and suddenly I can't look away.  

"So Grace, why are you running away from home?"  His tone is casual, but I return his gaze with ice.

"I'm not running anywhere.  All the same, it's a long story."  I shrug and look away now, trying not to think of the real answer.  

He shrugs off my rudeness, and I feel a little guilty for snapping at him.  The elevator slides open and we slink inside.  Before the door closes, a tanned girl a little younger than me slips in.  She's wearing a long baggy T-shirt, and if she's wearing shorts, I can't see them.  

She gives us a tired smile, her eyes half closed, and stares up at the ceiling.  I stare hard at the numbers that grow in size as the elevator slides higher.  Tommy leans his back against the wall, his eyes closed.  It's not just in my head when I say that all elevator rides are awkward; this one does not disappoint. 

The tanned girl gives a little cough, and in my peripheral vision, I can see that she's now staring at Tommy, and then to me.  Her eyes are wide as disks, and I can't understand her sudden interest in us.  

I do my best to ignore her, continuing to stare at the numbers.  The elevator stops on five,  and the girl reluctantly leaves.  I see her running down the hall before the door closes.  

On the seventh floor, the door opens again and it's our turn to get out.  I follow Tommy because I don't know where I'm going. 

The End

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