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Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:45 am

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John woke up with a start. He hoped he hadn't been making too much noise on the quiet bus. He pulled his sweatshirt tighter over his mouth and cringed into his seat, willing his nightmare away.

He was running away from his perfect first-class life in California. He didn't want to go back; he'd already changed his appearance and his name.

John. He thought. What a stupid name.

He sunk back into the seat and closed his eyes. It was going to be a long drive to North Carolina. It wouldn't be easy; he would have to stop in every other town just to get more money. He didn't want to think about that now, he was ready for a new life in North Carolina. He tried to block out his bad dreams and slept warily for the rest of the night.

he transferred buses in Nevada, he still had enough money to make it to the next state. He boarded a bus in Carson City, Nevada. It took two more days to get to Utah. Every stop, new faces got on and old faces left. He got off the last bus in Utah where he searched for a job. He would spend as long as he needed to here and then he would be on his way again.

Anna hurriedly packed her bags then dressed in jeans, tennis shoes, and a jacket. She pulled the hood over her head to cover her wounded face and shoved a letter into an envelope. She stuck it on her pillow and pulled her biggest bag over her head, the second on her back, and rolled the third behind her.

She walked out the front door quietly taking one picture from the table in the hall. She sprinted away from her house and toward the community bus stop. No one that she knew was out in the early morning. She glanced around the stop to make sure no one was watching her then she sat on the cold concrete. Her face felt swollen and sore. She shuddered, remembering the night.

She waited over an hour for the bus and with every minute that passed, she longed to go back. Her family would be waking up soon and they would be looking for her.

"I love you, I'm sorry I had to do this. -Anna."

It was the last line of the letter she left for her family.

The bus rolled up around 8 am and by then the bus stop was crowded. People piled off with tired looking expressions from a long night of work. A new crowd filed onto the bus and Anna stowed away her luggage on the bottom of the bus. She stepped on last carrying one small bag with her. Most of the seats in the front were filled and there was only one seat open in the back next to a guy about her age.

'is this seat taken?" She asked the blonde haired boy while trying to keep her face hid.

"Of course not." He said, scooting over for her to sit down. "I'm John." He said, holding out his hand.

"Kate." Anna lied quickly, shaking his hand. She was distracted by him for a second. His wavy blonde hair and prominent straight nose with perfect straight teeth and bright blue eyes. She had to look away when her eyes traveled to his muscles.

"Where are you headed?" He asked, his eyes lingering a little too long on the part of her face that was exposed. It was black and purple in a big spot on her chin that passes beyond the shadows.

Anna pulled on her hood self consciously. "Away from here."

John watched her nervously mess with her bag. "Join the club." He said. "I'm headed to North Carolina."

"Why?" She asked, sneaking a peek at him.

"Furthest place from Cali."

"I think that's actually Maine."

"I'm not fond of the cold. I do beaches not snow."

"Maine has beaches. They're just rocky and getting in the water isn't advised." Anna said,taking an interest in him.

"You're a smart girl, aren't you?" He asked, smiling at her with his perfect teeth.

"So what?" She asked, changing the subject. "You have a bunch of money and you're running off?"

John cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably. "I do have money." He said in a low voice. "But that's just my parents money. I'm going to pay my own way."

Anna smiled. "I like you, John."

John smiled back. "I like you too, Kate."

Anna shuddered at the way he said Kate. It was as if a lost man found the light. Anna wished he had said her name.

"You don't seem like you've been getting much sleep." She said, taking her mind off of him and focusing just on looks. Looks were shallow, nothing concrete. Nothing in looks could permanently root her into place, make it hard to leave again.

"I worked for two weeks, mostly double shifts."

"You're already into the work stuff, I have a feeling you'll do fine on your own."

John watched her. "Is it too early to say I don't want to be alone?"

Anna didn't let herself think about that. "Maybe I'll travel with you for a while. We can make money together and stuff but I want to do something with my new life. I want to be somebody."

John's heart sped up at the thought of not being alone for a while. "That's fine with me." He said. "Why be lonely?"

The first time they got off the bus together was in a little town called Heber City. They hunted for a small place to rent that was only $100 a night and they put their bags up in the bedroom they would be sharing.

When the sun was setting throwing pink and orange across the sky, John and Anna walked through the town, looking for jobs. They finally found work in a warehouse where John was doing heavy lifting and Anna was taking calls for orders. They agreed to start the next day and walked home silently. The two strangers couldn't find anything to talk about so they let silent questions hang between them, quiet as the wind that whispered up in the tree's leaves.

When they got to the house, John unlocked the door and held it open for Anna. "Ladies first." He said.

Anna giggled. "Thank you." She stepped inside the house and groped for a lightswitch, lighting up the room with a small lightbulb screwed into the ceiling. 'Want dinner?"

John smiled. "You're reading my mind. Let me help."

They walked to the kitchen and started heating up the microwaveable dinners.

They ate dinner watching the small TV in the living room that still had bunny ears.

By nine o'clock, Anna was getting tired.

"I think I'm going to bed." She said, trying to catch her balance when she stood too quickly. Her vision went black and she fell into the couch again.

"Need help?" John asked, grinning at her with that impossible to resist smile.

"I can manage." She said, smirking at him. She stood slowly and walked to the bedroom.

"Goodnight, Kate." John's voice said from the couch. Anna turned to look at him. "Thank you for keeping me company."

Anna winked and smiled sleepily. "Why be lonely?"

Alone in the room, Anna shut the door behind her and changed into her pajamas. She looked at the queen sized matress warily and then looked back in the mirror wishing she had packed more appropriate clothes. Her satin nightgown came too far up her leg and too low on the neck line to be sleeping in the same bed as the boy she just met on a bus.

Anna worried that she was going crazy. First she runs away and then she meets a guy and travels with him. Now she's sleeping in the same bed as him.

She sighed ad walked to the bed and crawled under the covers, staying close to the edge to give John pleanty of room. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to keep away the nightmares. They came back at night with full force, slamming into her like a brick wall. They knocked the breath out of her and left her desperate to go back home. All that came to her, though, was John's face. His perfect smile, his deep royal blue eyes, his wavy dirty blonde hair.

She fell asleep quietly wishing she knew him. But then again, he didn't know her real name. Or her story.

John was watching TV, his eyes slipping closed when the screams started. They were mind-blowing. His heart stopped the second her high-pitched cry of terror pierced the air.

"Kate?!" He said, throwing himself off the couch and catching his balance on the table before sprinting toward the room. He pushed the door aside and flicked on the lights.

"Kate?" He said again. The girl was convulsing helplessly on the bed. Screams tore up her throat. "Kate, wake up!" He said, shaking her shoulder violently. Her black hair sprawled over the pillow and the covers twisted around her body tightly.

Then, just as suddenly as they had started, they stopped. Her hand found his and, deep in her sleep, she whispered his name. A beautiful smile danced on her full lips and then she fell limp again, her dream forgotten.

John shook his head. "Silly girl." He whispered to himself and watched him for a few more minutes. She was in the middle of the bed and he wasn't sure how well she would take to being in his arms in the morning.

John found an extra blanket and pillow then traveled back to the couch. He fell asleep thinking about the girl in the bedroom and had his first good night of sleep since he left.

"John." Her voice came to him gently.

He opened his eyes slowly.

Anna was on the floor next to his head. "You could have slept with me, you know."

John sat up carefully. "I didn't want to scare you off. We would have been really close."

Anna's laughed tinkled in the darkness and his eyes slowly adjusted to her perfect face just a few inches from his. "You don't scare me, John." She whispered, her breath reaching her lips. "Especially not because you're too close."

John noticed her dress then and inhaled sharply, her scent lingering in the air. Then he saw her shiver. "Well then let me warm you up." He said, reaching for her.

He held the blanket open and she sat carefully in his lap. She pressed her cold fingertips into his neck and sighed deeply. "Thank you."

He held her tighter."You're welcome. What time is it?"

"Four thirty. We have about an hour until we have to leave."

"Do you want to shower first?"

Anna shook her head. "I'll be cold when I get out. I need someone to warm me up."

John grinned. "I see how it is. I'm your personal furnace." He inhaled sharply again as her toes brushed against his leg. "I better go shower." He said, sliding her off of his lap and standing. "I'll be right back."

"Hurry." Anna said, smiling at him.

"I'll be sure to." He said sarcastically and playfully rolled his eyes at her before turning away and walking back into the bedroom. What he had with Anna was mostly a lie but he wanted more. He didn't know her. And, unless whatever was between them grew, he probably never would.

He showered and dressed in work clothes and then wondered if they'd ever trust each other enough to tell their stories.

Kate was sleeping lightly when John walked back into the room. He pale face was peaceful but John could see the healing scars and bruises from where he was standing.

"Kate it's time to shower." He said, going to the couch.

"John, I don't want to right now. Hold me."

John laughed. "Kate, are you asleep?"

She opened her eyes. "Do you think I am?"

"Not anymore. But you were talking last night."

Kate hid her face from him. "What did I say?" She moaned.

John curled his arms around her, electricity sparking through his body at every place she touched. He pulled her closer, his heartrate speeding up. "You said my name."

Kate buried her face in John's chest. "That's embarrasing." She mumbled.

"You should shower. We only have 45 minutes left."

"Will you be here when I get out?"

Anna didn't notice the flicker of hurt that crossed John's face as he was brought back to a different place in time. He forced himself back into the present and gave her a smile. "I'm going to make breakfast and then I'll come get you when you're done showering."

She smiled a small smile adn then walked off to the bathroom, the blanket falling from her shoulders as she walked.

John couldn't help it, he stared.



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