Meanwhile, back in Missing Mile, Steve had been having trouble of his own. As he'd left the old graveyard that day so long ago, he'd vowed he'd search for Ghost forever, if that's what it took to find him. He could hardly bear to look at the T-Bird sitting there all accusingly, like it was saying to Steve, "Look at Ghost's blood...this is your fault." He had had to drive it back home though, even if he did have to be coated in Ghost's blood that was left in the car. But, he'd tried to make his mind a blank, as he got in and started the engine.
The car smelled like Ghost...coppery red blood...and molasses. He'd steeled himself against breaking down in tears, until he could make it home. On the way, he had to pass by the stores on the main street, the only road that connected to Burnt Church Road. As he drove by, he never glanced at anything, just kept his eyes looking forward. The old guys at the hardware store saw him drive by, though. They saw the blood on the door of the car, and turned their frowns toward Steve. He could feel their stares. He kept going.
"I've made a mess of everything," he sighed.
Arriving at the house, he got a bucket of soapy water and some rags. He washed and scrubbed the car, inside and out, washing away the evidence of his crime against his friend. He cried and begged forgiveness from the powers above, but he knew it would never happen. How can anyone forgive what he'd done. He remembered a flash of that night...when Ghost had spit at him and cursed him...and he knew he deserved to be cursed for eternity.
Going inside the house, he tried to make a plan of where he would start looking for Ghost. He had no idea, but then remembered Ghost and his grandmother had come from up in the mountains somewhere. Maybe he'd start looking there. First he had to prepare for what might be a long search. He pulled together some supplies to take.
That afternoon, Ghost told the kind couple of his need to leave. They wanted him to stay, give it a bit longer, but ultimately agreed with him, when he explained how he'd been treated lately by the group of guys; that he'd been cornered more than once, and could hear their thoughts of hurting him more than just the occasional shove or suggestive words and leers.
"We'll always care about you, Ghost. Know that in your heart. Let us know how you're doing from time to time. Do not hesitate to ask for anything from us."
Ghost smiled through his tears and nodded. The man said he'd drive him down the mountain to the crossroads of the highway. As they drove slowly down the twisting, narrow road, the man said he understood he had to make his own way in the world. He stopped the car at the highway. One way led east, toward the coast and Missing Mile. The other led west, to places neither had ever been.
"Which way you wanna go, Ghost? I can take you back to Missing Mile, or you can go to the bus station to the west. It's only a couple of miles. I'm going east...it's time for my yearly supply run to Raleigh."
Ghost sat there for a bit, then shaking his head no, whispered, "I can't go back there," as he brushed away his tears. "Maybe I never will."
"Ok, Ghost...I have a hundred dollars saved up...it's yours. I wish you well," the man said as he hugged Ghost good-bye.
Ghost stood there watching as the man drove off...until the red taillights faded away. Now he was truly on his own, truly all alone in the world. He thought of his and Steve's 'World' song, and began singing it as he walked westward. He missed singing at the Yew, he missed singing for the kids, and yes...he missed Steve, too.
As he trod on down the road, tears fell for all that had been good in his life...and for the future he hadn't yet seen. He hadn't really tried to see ahead, even though he could if he wanted to. He thought he'd rather try to live in the present, and let what came next just be what it was meant to be.
A few cars whizzed by him on the lonely road...none stopped. A semi or two raced on down the highway, almost knocking him down with the backwash of wind from their passing. One blew his air horn, and Ghost thought for sure his heart would stop from the sudden loud sound.
He tried to stay focused on what he was doing. "Keep walking, keep walking," he reminded himself, but in spite of that, his mind began to wander. There was a half moon in the sky, and the stars were twinkling brightly, but still this road was terribly dark. The woods on both sides of him were thick...and he thought, pretty spooky.
"I'm not afraid of the dark," he said to himself, even though he kind of was...at least of these dark woods. Back home in Missing Mile, he knew every inch of the woods, day and night, and the graveyard held nothing for him to fear.
Here though, he panicked for a second, "There might be ghosts out there in these woods!" He giggled at the crazy thought..."I'm Ghost, and I'm afeared of ghosts...well, strange ones anyway. What the hell am I doing out here...focus, focus." His eyes were opened wide from the state he was working himself into. He tried to slow his breathing and shaking knees.
"I'm gonna go to this town, to the bus place, and get a ticket outta here...to somewhere far, far away...or at least as far away as this money will take me. But, I need to keep some of it to buy something to eat," he thought. This got him confused again, which added to his panic, because of the math thing, and he knew he'd never figure it out. He sighed, telling himself to calm down. Things would work out how they were supposed to. He tried to make himself believe that.
Next installment coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing!