My lungs were tight as fists and the voice inside my head said run, but my legs couldn’t be trusted. Standing up wouldn’t have gotten me out of there, it would only have drawn attention to the pee that was warm in my shorts and it might have gotten Hilary killed if he was serious about running that blade across her neck.
All of a sudden the man stood and keeping his back to us, lowered the kerchief and put a cigarette in his mouth. Hilary never moved though I saw her blink. She was looking at something far away like she was somewhere else entirely and I hoped that that was true so she wouldn’t have to know what happened. He pulled his baseball hat low over his face the same way it’d been when we first climbed into the railcar and without ever looking at us he jumped to the ground and walked away.
“Stay here,” I’d told Amelia, though I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. And I ran. I ran faster than I’d ever run not even caring about the pee burning the inside of my legs. I’d taken the woods instead of the path, running in the opposite direction from the way he’d gone. My legs were scraped and bleeding by the time I’d reached the road and the stitch in my side had made it almost impossible to breath, but I just kept thinking of Hilary laying there and I couldn’t stop until I was pulling open my own back door. I ran into the kitchen and through the house until I found my mother kneeling beside her bed, rosary beads draped around her prayerful hands like a spider web. I stood in the doorway and looked at her, imagined wrapping my arms around her neck and her drawing me in, holding me. I imagined feeling safe. She glanced at me standing there then dismissed me with a nod of her head, knee deep in Jesus. I turned and ran for the telephone.
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