Before the Plan

She quietened after a few minutes and Tom made to strap her back into her seat. Lily protested instantly and tried to cling to him, making him feel heartless, but they couldn’t sit on a street corner all day. With Lily’s screams ringing in his ears he drove past low-rise dwellings set quite far back from the road in large, square gardens. It looked a fairly wealthy neighborhood; not a good place for them.  He took a few turns at random, feeling an increased sense of urgency. He needed to sleep. Lily needed to be fed. They needed...

            He was close to the edge of town again before he spotted a motel and sighed with relief, pulling in to park. Lily had stopped screaming and he turned to find her staring at him accusingly with her dark eyes. As soon as she saw she’d got his attention she opened her mouth in another yell and bucked and kicked.

            She was still screaming as he carried her toward the motel entrance, where a bleary-eyed clerk watched their approach from behind a desk. The clerk was rubbing his eyes as they came in, yawning as he opened his ledger then looking around him for a pen, seemingly without any hope of finding one. Tom noticed his eyes were dull, red-rimmed, and that he smelled of alcohol. He rubbed his head, causing his hair to stand up on one side and yawned again. Lily, thank God, stopped her wailing to study the clerk as if he were an animal in a zoo.

            “Room?” he said. “Jes you an the little one? She your daughter?” He pronounced daughter as if it was spelled ‘dotter’.

            “One single,” Tom said; Lily would share with him. “How much, just for one day?” He had a momentary urge to launch into some explanation. Say he was on his way somewhere, to a wedding maybe, and that Marnie had got held up. He thought better of it, any excuse he made would sound lame and forced; he hadn’t the energy to come up with a good lie. Also, it might be remembered. The clerk was hung-over, but that did not mean he was stupid. He listened as the clerk outlined various prices and extras, deducting it from his funds and realizing how little they actually had.

            Tomorrow I’ll have to go into town and take as much as I can out of the account, or we’ll be leaving a trail behind us. I’ll take as much as I can get, and leave the rest, pay cash from now on.

            The vastness and horror of their situation hit him again, a mountain rising ahead he’d have to climb. They’d have to get to a city, somewhere it was possible to disappear, somewhere it was possible to find work off the record. Maybe then he could figure out the rest. Get new identities for himself and Lily somehow. They had a few days probably, before Marnie was found. Just a few days. He singed the register with the name of a guy he’d known at school and took up the keys.

            There were a couple of machines in the lobby selling soft-drinks and junk. He stocked up and took it all back to the room where he and Lily made a breakfast of snack-food and mineral water. Not the best thing for her, but there wasn’t anything else. She enjoyed it at least, then wanted to play, only he realized belatedly how much she reeked and gave her a play in the scratched old tub in the en-suite, making another mental list of all the things they would need. Jesus, there was so much! As soon as it was fully light he dragged her out again and visited a few stores. It was late before she slept again, and by this time he was so tired he was numbed to everything except the need to close his eyes. He lay down beside Lily and sank into exhausted slumber, until a knock at the door woke him with a start.

The End

12 comments about this story Feed