Ben and I drove around in the darkness. He was determined to find a new car before the early morning sun began to rise. He would pull to the edge of the isolated houses along the edge of the country road. He would tiptoe around people’s property and test the doors on their cars. I wanted to scream out for help, but I didn’t want them to die like that innocent man at the gas station.
Ben got lucky at the third house that we visited. I sat in the truck and watched him open up the door to a car, reach in, and pull a set of keys off of the driver’s seat. He ran back to the truck. He didn’t say anything to me, but he reached behind the seat for the duffel bag. He fished below all of our clothes and pulled out a license plate. I furrowed my brows at him and he chuckled.
“You always have to stay one step ahead of them,” he said.
“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“I told you Bethany gave me a lot of freedom,” he said. “When she was out at her office I was down at the scrapyard unscrewing license plates from cars. I’ve been preparing for a while.”
He pulled out a screwdriver and hopped out of the truck. I watched him as he swapped the license plates in a matter of minutes. That must be why no one was able to track down Bethany’s car. He was switching the plates on a regular basis.
After he was done, he backed the truck onto the side of the road. He grabbed my hand and the duffel bag. I pretended to limp and grit my teeth as Ben pulled me to the car. He slowed down his pace to match mine, but I could tell that he was growing impatient.
My mind was stuck on those license plates. Ben always told me that he never had any intention of leaving Bethany. He said the only reason he wanted to get out was because of me. He couldn’t have collected those license plates before we went to Dr. Alexander’s. He had never left Oliver’s house since we met.
I was brought out of my thoughts when Ben reached across me and buckled my seatbelt. He pulled out of the driveway slowly. Once he got back onto the gravel road he picked up speed.
I sunk into the seat as I let out a yawn. My eyes were watering, and I rubbed the heel of my palm into my eyes. My stomach flipped when I realized I was touching my eyes. The sunglasses fell off my face as I tried to stop the man from bleeding. Ben threw me into the truck before I had the chance to put them back on. I bolted in my seat and looked out the passenger window.
This was my chance.
Maybe someone would see my eyes and know it was me.
That would never happen if Ben stayed on these rural roads. We only ever passed the odd car, and when we did we flew by them so fast they’d never have the chance to look into the window.
Ben hummed along to his music as the sun began to rise. I smiled as I felt the warm rays of orange and yellow slowly wash over me. We must have been driving for over an hour before Ben realized I was not wearing my sunglasses. He searched through the glove box until he found a pair of glasses. He forced me to keep them on my face. The one arm was loose and they kept slipping down my nose.
“We’re just outside of Muskoka,” Ben said “I can’t wait to show you this cabin. I think you’ll love it.”
I wanted to ask him to pull over. I wanted to lie and say I needed the bathroom, but the thoughts of that man’s bloody body filled my mind. I could not let more innocent people die.
Ben tapped his fingers along with the beat of the music on the steering wheel. A few hours passed by in silence, and the city around us slowly turned into woods. Ben took a few turns, and the road was dirt. The car jostled from side to side as the car drove over the rough ground. We passed the odd cottage, but they all looked empty. I was kidnapped at the end of September. I was used to worrying about balancing studying for midterms and going to track practice. I never thought that would all change in one night.
I never thought much about how long I was gone. A lot of the days seemed to mush together. I was in Oliver’s basement for quite some time. Being in the Caribbean made it difficult for me to tell how much time has passed. The trees surrounding us were covered by a warm array of yellow and orange leaves.
“What’s the date today?” I asked.
“Why?” he asked.
“I’m just curious,” I said. “It’s been a long time since I looked at a calendar.”
It had been a month since I was taken. Ben chuckled. He reached out and rested his hand on my knee.
He pulled up to a log cabin. There was a porch that was wrapped around the house and a bright red door. I got out of the car and walked toward the cabin. I set the sunglasses on top of my head and squinted to try and make my vision clearer. I could hear a trickle and saw a lake running behind the cabin. The car door slammed shut.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Ben said.
I looked over my shoulder to see Ben walking toward me. The duffel bag was over his shoulder, and his lips were spread into a wide smile.
“It’ll be just you and I out here,” he said.
Ben slid his arm around my waist and pulled me toward the cabin. The deck creaked under our footsteps. The trees were blowing as the cold wind ripped through the leaves.
Ben unlocked the door, and I stepped in. The smell of must filled my nose. A tiny kitchen sat in the corner. The fridge was covered with magnets holding up a series of photos. A fireplace was on a far wall. A couch sat across from it, and the ground was covered in a red and white woven rug. Ben set the bag down on the couch.
He slipped his arms around me and spun me around. My hands were pressed against his chest. I needed to resist pushing him away from me, so I slid them down his torso. He flinched when I got to his abdomen.
He let go of me with one arm. I looked down to see him hold his side with his hand.
He had not mentioned the infected patch of skin since I saw it one night in the motel. He pretended that it was not bothering him. His infection wasn’t on my mind as we were driving here.
“Is it worse?” I asked.
“Di, don’t worry about it,” he said.
“Let me see it,” I said.
I pushed his hand away and pulled up the hem of his shirt. The red patch above his scales had doubled in size. Pus was oozing out of the edge of scales. Ben grabbed my wrist and pulled his shirt down.
“You have to go get help,” I said. “Ben, you have to go to a doctor.”
“You know I can’t do that,” he said. “They’ll take me away from you.”
“Ben, that will kill you.”
He let out a deep breath. He put his hand back onto my hip. He pulled me closer to him and leaned down to rest his forehead against mine. His warm breath brushed across my skin. His hand came off of my hip and cupped the side of my face.
“If I have to go, you’re coming with me,” Ben said. “I can’t spend a day without you.”
The gun must still be in the waistband of Ben’s jeans. I bit my lip. I should have kept my mouth shut.
I got up on my toes. My hands went around his neck, and I smashed my lips against his. Ben stumbled back at my awkward movement. My teeth ached from colliding into Ben so quickly. The sunglasses had fallen off of my head and tumbled to the floor. I leaned back a bit so that I could speak.
“We can’t die,” I said. “We just got to Muskoka. We finally got here. We can’t leave now.”
Ben’s shoulders relaxed, and he gave me a soft smile. He brushed a piece of hair away from my face.
“We are going to spend the rest of our lives here,” Ben said. “I hope it will be long, but I cannot promise anything. I will think of something.”
He leaned down and kissed me again.