Michael shook awake at the sound of a blaring lorry horn. He blinked, trying to reorientate himself for a few seconds. He glanced out the bus window streaked with rain tracks, to see darkness. His breath fogged up the cold glass and he pulled away. All he could see were the nearing and faring lights of other vehicles on the road. The continuous, harsh sound of rainfall colliding with the metal of the bus ringing in his ears. He pulled his jacket tighter, even though the inside of the bus was sweltering. He glanced to the seat next to his but his mother was sound asleep. He tried to readjust himself and stretch his legs. He managed to budge about half an centimetre and that was it. The little space above them and between the seats taken up by their stuff. There wasn't much, his mum had been a big hurry when she decided to leave. His gaze turned far away as he recalled the whole thing.
“Michael! Where on earth were you?” She cried out as the door shut behind him. Michael frowned at his mother in the dim hallway, his coat halfway off his shoulder and his bag still in one hand.
“I told you,” he said, eyebrows knitting together. “Late study session for the exams.”
“Oh, of course,” she said, covering her face with one hand. Her moment of relief left quickly, replaced by obvious anxiety. “We need to hurry. Pack a bag,” she instructed. Michael starred at her for a second, wondering if she was kidding. Her eyes were a steely grey though. They only looked like that when they were in danger.
“What's going on?” he asked, dumping his bag at his feet and pushing past into his bedroom. They lived in a small two bedroom flat. His bedroom was just big enough to fit a single bed and wardrobe. It didn't exactly take him long to empty his backpacks contents and shove everything he owned into it. He grabbed a second, older backpack for the rest of his clothes. He glanced at his mum when she didn't answer and saw her lips trembling.
“He's found us,” she whispered. Her greying brown hair escaped her ear and half-covered her face as she looked downwards. Michaels own dark brown eyes grew wide at the words, the need to ask more questions burning on his tongue. He bit them back and packed the last of his stuff. He slung each backpack over one shoulder and followed his mum out of the flat. He glanced once inside before leaving. Seeing a note and a few pound notes left on the small, tiled kitchen table for the landlord.
Michael tried to fall back asleep but couldn't. He put his headphones in and hoped the battery of the old battered ipod would last until their destination. Though where that was he had no clue. His mum had said it was where she was born and grew up. Then she'd left shortly after finding out she was pregnant with him. They'd moved about since he could remember – had more serious things to worry about. He watched as purples and pinks began to streak the sky. The other passengers around him began to stir with the arrival of dawn. He heard young children whine to their parents, asking if they were there yet. He felt his mother move beside him and looked over as she opened bleary eyes. It only took her a few seconds to recall their situation and sit up more fully.
“What's the time?” she asked, pulling the bus time table from her handbag as she spoke. Michael glanced at his mobile. He needed to charge it soon, it had only one bar of power blinking at him.
“Quarter past six,” he replied, his voice hoarse. He hoped they were there soon. He needed a proper bed and something other than crappy pit stop coffee. She consulted the timetable and smiled.
“Just an hour and we'll be there,” she explained.
“What's the place called again?” he asked, feeling a yawn escape. This was the third bus they'd been on now.
“Whimston,” she replied. “I grew up there. It's the last safe place I know,” she explained. Michael blinked at her words, realising what she was saying.
“Oh ...“ he trailed off, unsure what to say to that. He glanced back outside, seeing them leave the motorway and move onto small town roads. It pulled to a stop at another drive-through center and the others around them stood. Michael himself got up, his legs muscles protesting the sudden movement.
“Need anything from the shops?” he asked as he shuffled past his mother and into the corridor. She shook her head, her eyes elsewhere. Michael suppressed a sigh and left the bus, blinking against the sunlight. He didn't go into the shops and just walked a little. Feeling relief flood his joints at the freedom. He pushed the hood of his jacket down and let the rain wash over his face. Within a few moments his wild tangle of brown hair was stuck to his face. He concentrated on the very real cold feeling of the drops, using it to push down all the other worries. The fears about his step-father and what would happen if he found them. His mother didn't say anything about his state when he returned.