TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
It was a tight squeeze, but everyone managed to get into the van. Linda started the engine, and pulled out of the police station parking lot, to head back up the mountain to the cabins. They needed to get their belongings, and the U-Haul, then settle up with the manager for the damages.
Stevie kept asking his uncle Steve what happened. "Not now, Stevie," Linda said, trying to shush him.
"You wanna know what happened? I'll tell ya," Steve said, still angry.
Linda gave him a warning look. "Steve, no...they don't need to hear it, and Stevie, stop asking questions...it's grown-up stuff. We're getting the U-Haul, and going back on the road."
"Damn right we are," Steve said. He slammed his fist down onto the arm rest, making them all jump. Ghost had laid his head over on Melody's shoulder, and when Steve startled them, he gripped her arm hard, then began sobbing.
Linda took a deep breath. This is a waking nightmare...
Up at the visitor's center, word had spread among residents and employees. The place was abuzz with speculation. As Linda parked the van, she could see people standing on the porch, and others peering through the windows.
"Steve, my suggestion is we don't need to tell anyone anything. You and Ghost just go straight to the U-Haul and leave. I will give the manager a check, then I'll follow you down. I'm not in any mood to be talking to anyone, even if they say they are your friends. Deal?"
""Deal," Steve said. "I'll be damned if I'm gonna explain anything to anyone here."
"Ok, ready?" she asked.
Steve nodded. "Ghost, let's go. Don't look at anybody, don't talk to anybody. Just get in, and we leave." He opened his door, and the passenger back door, to let Ghost out. They were on the far side of the U-Haul, so the onlookers didn't have a view of them. As soon as they were in, he started it up, and pulled out.
Linda got out, alone, and walked to the office. She heard people calling out to her, but she didn't stop or look their way. Inside, she faced the manager at his desk.
"How much do we owe for the damages?" she asked.
He told her a figure, and she doubled it, then handed him the check. Raising his eyebrows, he asked, "Are they gonna be ok?"
Linda nodded. "Yes, they'll be fine. It was an accident."
"I know, and we do care about them, you know. Sorry I yelled earlier."
"Thank you," Linda said. "They care about y'all, too. You've all been very kind to them. They've already left, though. They're a bit shook up, and embarrassed about the whole incident."
"Y'all are always welcome here...no hard feelings. I mean that," the manager said.
Linda nodded. "I'll let them know." She turned, and went out the door, straight to the van. Inside, she felt she could breathe again. After a minute, she pulled out of the parking lot, and wound her way back down the twisty mountain road. On the outskirts of the little town, she saw the U-Haul pulled over, waiting for her. She pulled in behind it, then called on her cell phone to Steve.
"It's all taken care of. Let's get out of here," she said.
They drove for miles. No one was saying anything, in either car. Even the kids weren't complaining that they'd had no breakfast. They were all feeling a pall hanging over them. Exhaustion was showing on their faces, yet determination was keeping them going. The tall pines on both sides of the road seemed to loom over them, casting shadows on the road. The sun was somewhere above the tree tops, but here on the road, it was still, and dark.
As they passed the road that led up to the little community where Ghost had come from, he showed a bit of interest.
"That's the road..." he began.
"We're not stopping," Steve said, and pushed the accelerator down harder.
"It smells like home," Ghost said, smiling as best he could. "Can't you smell the ocean, Steve?"
"Yeah, won't be long," Steve said.
"Where we going?" Ghost asked.
"Huh? We're going home," Steve said, glancing over at Ghost.
"I know, but to our house, or to the Yew? Or to Zack's to get Spirit?"
"Oh...uh...the Yew, I guess," Steve said. "Linda is staying there for now. Maybe Kinsey will have something to eat. I'm about to starve."
"Me, too," Ghost said. "I love home. I don't want to go anywhere else, again."
"You got that right. Hey, look...there it is, straight ahead." Missing Mile was in their sights.
Both of them were grinning. The bad mood had lifted. "Does he know we're here today?" Ghost asked.
"I don't know, I haven't talked to him," Steve said. "Too late, now...we're here." He parked the U-Haul in the back parking lot of the Sacred Yew. Linda did the same, and they all got out, stretching their legs.
"It's done...we're here. Let's go in and surprise Kinsey," Steve said. He opened the back door. The familiar atmosphere of the club washed over them. It was dim in the hallway, and a wonderful smell of coffee was in the air. A light was on in the office, so they walked over, and Steve opened the door.
There was Kinsey, coffee cup in hand, leaning back in his office chair. As the door opened, he looked up in surprise. "What the hell? Y'all are back!"
Next part coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing