"I haven't run like that in ages," Gabe wheezed through his laughter as they slowed to a stop. "And I can't believe we got away with that."
Tyson had done it easily – his basketball team usually ran laps before practice – but even he could barely breathe after laughing so hard. “I told you she was stupid,” he said.
They traded jackets as they walked through downtown, staring up at the giant buildings surrounding them. If they got far enough, maybe Georgia wouldn't find them, considering the city was so big. Or maybe she knew it like the back of her hand. Tyson hoped she didn't, but he wouldn't know unless she actually found him. That had been so close.
“So, where do you want to go now, Mexican Boy?” Gabe asked, the smile still on his face.
Tyson glanced around, feeling completely lost. The humour in what had just happened dissolved and fear formed to replace it. He had no idea how they were going to get out of there, but they had to start somewhere. “I have no idea,” he said nervously. “As far away from here as possible to start, though.”
Gabe seemed to sense Tyson's discomfort. “Maybe later we can start looking for someone to give us a ride,” he suggested. “So we can get back on the road.”
“I just feel bad, though.” Tyson removed his beanie to run his hand through his hair. “We're asking all these strangers to give us rides, but we're giving nothing in return. Like, if we had more money, we could thank them, you know?”
Gabe was silent for a moment while his mind processed the suggestion. “Well, I guess I agree,” he said slowly. “But think about it; if they're picking up kids, which is what we are, I'm pretty sure they won't expect us to pull out a twenty and give it to them. They're probably just trying to help.”
“But still. I feel like it's not fair.”
Before any of this, he never cared about “fair.” At basketball practice, when Coach made everyone do twenty five pushups, he'd get away with doing ten. When he and Tyler went out with Dad sometimes, Tyson almost always got to ride shotgun, simply because he'd beaten his brother there. And back two weeks ago, he got to live and his parents didn't. And that was the one unfair thing that made him realize how much he should care about what was fair and what wasn't.
“Mom, this is stupid!” Tyler had protested. “How come Tyson gets to go out and not me?”
“Because you're grounded, Tyler,” Mom had yelled back. “I didn't have to listen to Tyson throw up last night because he was hungover like you! You're way too young to be drinking, Tyler.”
Tyler had thrown his hands up, but Tyson had only laughed. Because yes, he definitely had gotten drunk last night too when they went to Max's, but Tyler was the only one who'd been caught. It was kind of hard to get away with something like that if you were throwing up at two o'clock in the morning back at home, especially with a nurse for a mother. Her hearing was supersonic.
“Why aren't you getting mad at him?” Tyler had fumed, pointing at Tyler. “He was doing it too! I swear!”
“Don't bring your brother into this,” Mom had warned.
It was pretty funny – how she had not clued in, especially when they had both been out last night, it was beyond him – and watching Tyler take the blame because he was bad at hiding was hilarious. It also showed just how much Mom trusted Tyson, even though she shouldn't have.
Tyson wasn't sure why that specific memory came back to mind, but it just reminded him of how much he missed Mom and the way she sometimes picked sides. His heart ached at the thought of never having that again, as stupid as that sounded. He and Tyler were natural troublemakers, and the two people that helped steer them away from the trouble were gone forever. And now Tyson was definitely paying for it in this trip. He kind of felt like he deserved to freeze out there, as cruel as that sounded.
As they walked, Tyson's heart grew heavy. How he wished he could turn back time. It was a little late for that, anyway, but undoing the damage would have made him feel at least a little better.
He and Gabe passed through a few busy parking lots in front of some of the buildings before they reached a long stretch of road. It seemed a little bit quieter than the first few, but cars still whooshed past, and a few were parked along the side of the road. In the distance, Tyson could hear squealing tires, but in a big city like this, it probably wasn't uncommon to have terrible drivers. The sound made him think of car accidents, and car accidents made him think of...well, the obvious. He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of a roaring engine, like someone was flooring it in their car, and when his eyes settled on the source of the noise, he felt his heart hit the ground.
A white panic gripped him tighter than ever, and he felt his breath escape him once more. For a second, his entire body completely froze over in a way that wouldn't allow him to move from the very spot he stood in, but suddenly he began to shake, and he was completely taken over by desperation to get out of there.
It was a silver van, but not just any silver van.
“What the –” Gabe started, but Tyson interrupted him.
“Gabe, we gotta go!” Tyson shouted as the van screeched to a halt next to them. He began to sprint toward the back of one of the buildings, whimpering “Oh no” over and over again like a little kid as he pumped his legs. It was a man driving – most likely Georgia's husband – but that didn't mean he didn't notice who was riding shotgun.
Gabe luckily followed, and as they ran, a voice pierced the air: “Hey! Where do you think you're going?”
It was her voice. Oh God. The van tore through the surprisingly empty parking lot after them, and at the sound of the engine nearing closer and closer, Tyson could feel tears form in his eyes. There was no way he was going to outrun a vehicle, even if he was a basketball player.
He was running so quickly that he could feel himself lurching forward, tripping over his own feet. He was exhausted, his legs were on fire, and he felt like his chest was going to explode from running so hard, but he didn't want to get caught. God, he really didn't want to get caught.
The van pulled up next to him, and Georgia jumped out, deciding she was fit enough to chase after him. “Hey, get over here, you little shit,” she screeched. The crunch of her boots on the snowy cement made him sick to his stomach.
He was too focused on losing her to form a response, which apparently fueled her anger. “We have a lot to talk about! Stop!”
Tyson could feel his legs slow down and his heart rate pick up faster. This couldn't be happening. No. He tried to run faster, harder, but his body was telling him that he needed to stop and take a breath, even though his brain was screaming at him to keep going. He squeezed his eyes shut and ignored his popping chest as he pumped his arms and legs quicker, which only made him wheeze. Her footsteps got closer and closer.
And it wasn't long before he felt a hand grip his hood tightly and yank him backwards.
Tyson stumbled, and before he knew it, he was lying on his back in the snow. He attempted one last time to scramble to his feet, his chest tight and painful with defeat, but she was standing above him, catching the hood of his jacket once again. “Thought you were gonna go far, didn't ya?” she taunted. She yanked tighter on the hood, which pressed into his neck and left him with little air. “Get the hell up.”
Gabe arrived breathless, clearly not as quick as Tyson. He just stood there and observed, while Tyson's life was pretty much ending right now.
Tyson wanted to scream. His breath came in ragged bursts as everything he had envisioned about the trip crashed and burned right before his eyes. There was no way he was getting out of this one. He rose to his feet as told, glaring at her. “Real fucking clever, Gina,” he spat, brushing the snow from his jeans.
“It's Georgia, moron,” she hissed, her face only inches from his. “Now get in the van.”
Tyson let out a sharp, cold laugh. “Yeah. Right. I'm not going anywhere near that piece of shit.”
A sudden blow to the side of his face made his vision temporarily go black as Georgia delivered a cold slap to his left cheek. His face stung, and his hand instinctively rubbed his now red cheek, hatred for the woman standing in front of him coursing through his veins. “What the f–”
“Hey!” Gabe was suddenly in the picture, his hands connecting with her shoulders to shove her backward.
She was like a boulder, though; she didn't move. Instead, she just laughed. “And who would you be?”
“None of your business,” Gabe said boldly.
“Gabe, please, stay out of this,” Tyson said worriedly, trying to shake Georgia's hand off his own wrist. “I'll figure this out on my own.”
“There's nothing to 'figure out,'” Georgia sneered. “You're coming with me. You still have another few weeks before you can go home. The least you can do is appreciate everything I'm giving you right now.”
“And what would that be?” Tyson yelled. “You're ruining my life!” He tried to yank out of her grasp, but the pressure in the bones of his wrist increased, and he winced. “Let go of me!”
“Yeah, let go of him!” Gabe echoed, one hand on Georgia's arm and the other on Tyson's as he tried to pull them apart.
Georgia's sharp laugh pierced the still air. “Scram, kid. You're doing nothing to help.”
“Did you hear me? I said, let go!” Tyson shouted again, reaching his foot out toward her shin in a quick attempt to escape once again, but somehow she noticed and ended up driving her foot hard into his, causing him to double over.
“What is your deal?” he wheezed, pain now searing through his leg. “What do you want from me?”
“We had a deal,” she hissed. “You're supposed to come with me. Did you know how frantic I was after I found your pathetic little note? You're under my responsibility right now, and if something happens to you, it's my responsibility.”
Tyson threw his only remaining hand up. “When was I part of this deal? It was all you! I had no say!”
“Because you're not the adult here. Now, get in the van.”
Gabe was still trying to pull them apart, but obviously he could see that he was getting absolutely nowhere. Georgia was now dragging Tyson in the direction of the van, and surprisingly, she was so much stronger than he was; no matter how much he tried to dig his feet into the ground and pull back, he was still moving in her direction, and his wrist hurt like hell.
“Tyson, stop!” Gabe screamed, and when Tyson glanced over his shoulder at him, there were tears streaming down Gabe's face. His voice was choked by sobs. It broke Tyson's heart at the sight, but at this point, he had finally just given up. Georgia won.
How he was going to find Gabe after this, he had no idea; Gabe didn't have a phone. “Stay here, Gabe,” Tyson said sadly. God, this was so hard to say. He fought the quiver in his voice. “I'm coming back, so don't leave.”
Georgia tugged on his wrist harder, making him yelp. “Not this time,” she muttered. “I'll make sure of it this time.”
There was nothing Tyson could do other than watch Gabe stand there and cry as he was shoved into the back of the silver van, the door slamming shut behind him.
“What were you thinking?” said Georgia as the pulled into a narrow driveway in a nearby neighbourhood. “Did you really think this was doing you any good? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.”
“Yeah,” Tyson said angrily. “Thanks for ruining everything.”
“No problem.” Georgia smirked evilly as she stepped out of the van and opened his door. This made him wish he could have jumped out the door on the highway – why didn't he, anyway? “And there's no way you're leaving this time, just so you know ahead of time.” She undid his seatbelt like he was four years old and yanked him forcefully out of the van with the help of her awfully scrawny husband Robert, and the two dragged him into a small, one-story, brown-bricked home that reeked of cigarettes and alcohol. He could hear voices coming from the trashed kitchen, and they were rough and scratchy. He realized that the home belonged to someone else; Georgia and Robert lived in Revelstoke.
He never had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the two people who sat at the kitchen table in a conversation about how the price of cigarettes was soaring too high. Georgia dragged him down a hallway so narrow that a claustrophobic person would probably have a panic attack, and tugged his backpack off his shoulders, tossing it into a dirty room before shoving him in there after it. He never even bothered to move; he knew he'd be locked in there, and he knew that she'd never let him by if he even tried to escape. The door locked from the outside, which was a little odd, but clever in a situation like this, and as he heard the click of the lock, the rage overcame him so intensely that he had to talk to someone, anyone.
So he dialled Tyler.
Tyler picked up right away. “Hey, man,” he said, completely oblivious as always. “What's up?”
“Oh, you know, just locked in a random room in some random fucking house just having a blast.” He let the sarcasm drip sourly from each word he spoke. “And I'm screwed. So fucking screwed.”
There was a horrible moment of silence on the other end, and Tyson's heart plummeted. “Wait, what? What are you talking about?” Tyler asked.
“She got me!” Tyson yelled. How did he not catch on to that? “I was on the same bus as her and she sat behind me and Gabe and I pranked her but she caught on later and dragged me into her van and now I'm in some random house and I have no idea where I am!”
“Okay wait, Georgia did? I don't –”
“Yes, she did!” Tyson couldn't control the volume in his voice anymore; he just wanted to unleash it all. “Georgia caught me and dragged me into this place! Ugh, what am I gonna do now?” He gripped his hair tightly, wishing he could tear it out.
“Okay, just chill out, dude,” Tyler said, surprisingly calm. Tyson was surprised that Tyler hadn't burst into tears at this point; lately he was more sensitive than he ever had been. “What happened?”
“I already told you,” Tyson fumed. “Georgia got me. She dragged me into this house and locked me in a room.”
“I know, moron. I meant what happened to get you there in the first place.”
Tyson sighed. “When I was on the bus she was sitting behind us – I don't know why – so when I got off the bus and started walking a bit, she came by with her van and chased after me, grabbed my jacket, kicked me, and threw me in her van. And now here I am.”
He didn't even care that Georgia could be standing on the other side of the door listening; in fact, he wanted her to hear him. He wanted her to hear how much she hated him, how much worse his hatred for her was now. “I don't even know how to get out of here, so it looks like I can't come home yet,” he added.
There was a short pause. “As if,” said Tyler. He sounded kind of angry, too. Good. “She could have just let you go. Obviously you don't wanna stay with her if you're going halfway across the country on foot.”
“Exactly! Explain that to her! She doesn't get it!”
“So now you have no idea where you are?”
“Exactly.” Tyson paused to rub his eyes. “I'm basically her prisoner right now. There's no way to get out.”
“You'll figure it out,” Tyler assured him. “Is there a window you could crawl out or something?”
Tyson glanced over his shoulder at the single window in the room. It was an almost floor-to-ceiling window, but the width was so tiny that he'd have to lose the majority of his body weight to be thin enough to slip through there. “It's not big enough for a person to get through,” he said, and groaned.
Tyler sighed on the other end. “I don't know what to tell you, then,” he said. “It'll just come to you, I guess.”
“The door locks from the outside, Tyler,” Tyson ranted. “I don't know how long she's planning to leave me here, but it better not be for long, 'cause I gotta get back to Gabe.”
“He's not there?” Tyler said stupidly.
“Well yeah, Georgia doesn't even know him. He's out there by himself now, so I don't know how I'm gonna get back to him if I get out of here.”
“Okay, relax, dude. Wait 'til Georgia comes in, kick her ass, and leave.”
Tyson couldn't help but smile, as much as he felt like jumping off a bridge. “It's not that easy,” he said.
“You never know.” Tyson could hear the smile in his brother's voice. “She won't even know what's coming.”
Tyson drew in a shaky breath, not in the mood for humour. “I'm just so, so screwed,” he complained. “She just...ugh, she pisses me off. She basically kidnapped me, dude.” He could feel the anger that had dissolved building back up once again. “I just wanna go home.”
He didn't care that he sounded like an impatient little kid who had been dragged to the mall. Every time he thought about home, his heart ached, and his head spun enough to make him nauseous. He would think of the smell of home; the faint scent of cigarette smoke, the aroma of something cooking, the smell of grass wafting through the open windows after his dad had finished mowing the lawn. He'd always think of how comfortable he felt there, being able to lie in his own bed and battle his dad and Tyler in Wii Sports, even though he lost every time, and being showered with random kisses from his mom whenever she wasn't stressed about work. Every time he thought about home, though, it brought back the fact that it wasn't his home anymore, and how it was too far from his reach. It burned a hole right through him, and he had nothing to repair it with.
“I know,” Tyler said quietly. “I want you to come home too.”
“I just wish Aunt Holly would understand how hard this is.” Tyson paused to swallow a lump that had formed in his throat. “But she doesn't.”
“She does,” said Tyler. His voice was nearly a whisper. “She wants to come and get you, now that she knows what you're doing, but she can't. Not yet. She cries practically every day because she's so worried about you.”
Tyson felt a pang of guilt rip through his chest. “That's not making me feel any better right now.”
“It's the truth, though. You really need to stay safe, okay?”
“I'm gonna let you go for now, but I'll talk to you tomorrow, or sometime later tonight.” Tyler sounded like he didn't really want to hang up, but he was doing it anyway. “Just call me whenever you need me. 'Kay?”
Tyson nodded slowly, even though his brother couldn't see. “Yeah, I will.”
The other end clicked, and he was alone again, left to stare at the dull beige walls surrounding him, imprisoning him. Cracks lined some of the open spaces where, in his old house, there would have been pictures hung up to fill in the emptiness, and there was a hole in the wall on the other end of the room. Tyson's head dropped into his hands as he took a seat on the lumpy mattress and thought over what he was going to do now that he was back with Georgia. There was nearly no way he could escape, especially so soon. He couldn't predict how long it would be before he found Gabe again, and how much time he had left before Gabe died out there. Maybe he should have trusted his instincts and gotten off that bus when he could. He'd gotten himself into this mess, and once again, it was his fault.
Laying back on the bed, Tyson stared up at the white ceiling. Where were Mom and Dad to bail him out? “Where are you?” he whispered, his voice barely audible even in the screaming silence.
Of course, he wouldn't receive an answer, but maybe they would at least hear his silent pleas for help. As he rose back into a sitting position, the door opened, and Georgia stood there with a small plate of spaghetti. “You hungry?” she said.
“Go away,” he told her without hesitation.
“Well fine, if you starve to death in here, it's not my fault.” She immediately turned around to step out of the room and closed the door behind her. He heard the click of the lock again, and her heavy footsteps lingering in the hallway.
In a moment of rage, he leaned back and gripped his hair tightly, wanting to scream so badly, but it would only draw more attention to him. He was mentally shouting as many swear words as he could think of, and he picked up the only object on the floor – a plastic pink cup – and chucked it at the wall. The banging sound erupted only through the little room, which only increased his anger. He picked the cup up off the dirty floor and threw it again, and this time, it slammed into the door. Surely they would hear that. His breathing became heavy, and his face burned with fury. More than anything, he wanted to break something. He wanted Georgia to step into the room so he could break her face, or any other bone in her body. “Fuck!” he shouted.
Of course, everyone in the kitchen ignored him, but now he suddenly wished everyone would hear him and feel sympathy for him, and then let him out. They'd never do that, though. It was stupid to even enter his mind in the first place.
After hurling the cup at the door a few more times, Tyson threw himself down on the bed, exhausted. Looks like I'm never making it out of here, he thought angrily. Even after throwing that little tantrum, though, he was still blinded by rage. His wild eyes darted around the room in search of something to break or throw, and it was then that his eyes fell upon a red skipping rope that had spilled out under the closet door. Curious, Tyson stood and walked over to it, scooping it up from the floor and tossing it from hand to hand. In one selfish moment, he wondered what Georgia would do if he tied this around his neck and killed himself. It would be all her fault, right?
Imagine how terrible she would feel if she saw him hanging from the closet like that. She would always know that she was the cause and, even better, Tyson would be free. He wouldn't have to spend every day feeling guilty over the deaths of the two main people in his life, and he would no longer have to deal with their absence, because he would be right up there with them. It was a chance for him to reunite with them.
But what about Tyler?
How could he forget about him?
If he killed himself right then and there, what would Tyler do? He'd have no one left. What about Gabe? He'd wait for days and days, but would never see Tyson again. What about Aunt Holly? She'd just have one more reason to cry every day, and to feel like a horrible godmother. He would ruin everyone's lives just because he didn't want his anymore.
His hands shaking, he let the skipping rope fall from his hands and crash to the floor as he began to cry. He knew he was just being a big wimp about everything, but he didn't know what to do anymore. He considered calling Tyler back just to hear his voice, but not like this. Especially not after having a brief thought about killing himself.
Tyson fell back on the bed, staring up at the patterned and stained ceiling again with blurry eyes. He wiped his eyes and sniffed, wishing once again that his parents were there; they always knew what they were doing. They'd get him out of here for sure. But then again, if they were alive, he wouldn't be here. The thought caused more tears to stream down his cheeks, especially as he thought about the last time he talked to them, and how that was the last time he'd ever talked to them. His head began to pound from thinking so much, but he couldn't help it. That was how much life sucked.
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