by Jennifer Patino
Sandy awoke with a jolt.
She turned to Tom with groggy eyes and he looked over at her taking a drag from his Camel.
“Sorry,” he said. “Damn hole in the road.”
“It’s ok,” she said, stretching. “How long have I been out?”
“About an hour and a half.”
She stared out the window and noticed that the sun was just coming up.
Nothing looked familiar to her anymore.
As a matter of fact, that had been the case for awhile now.
“You ok?” Tom asked her.
“Yeah,” she smiled.
Tom turned the radio on and started flipping through stations. Most were filled with static or public news radio. He finally settled on a station playing “Cecelia” by Simon and Garfunkel.
Sandy’s memory flashed to just a few months ago.
She met Tom at a party she wasn’t even supposed to be at.
If Adam knew she had gone he probably would have hit her again.
It would just be another reason to add to his list of reasons why it was ok to hit her.
He was out of town with her best friend’s boyfriend and she convinced her that he would never find out.
Tom spent the first half of the evening staring at Sandy and for the first time in her life it didn’t make her uncomfortable to have someone do that to her.
When she walked out to have a smoke by herself, he followed her and lit up one too.
“I’m Tom.” he said smiling and extending his hand.
She didn’t even look at him. “Sandy.” She shook it lightly and only half wished that he would leave her alone.
“I’m new in town,” he said.
“Oh.” Sandy commented.
Tom made small talk and Sandy soon found herself answering.
They shared the same interests and everything that she disagreed with him on he was totally cool with.
That was definitely something that Sandy wasn’t used to.
Three cigarettes later, Tom told Sandy she was one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen and would love to hang out with her again sometime.
Sandy panicked but found herself accepting his invite.
It was one of the scariest decisions she was ever faced with in her life.
“We need gas.” Tom was saying.
She grabbed the map and instantly found where they were at by noticing one of the highway signs.
“Got enough for about two more miles?” she asked him.
“Yep.” He smiled.
“Then we’re good.” She smiled back.
He reached over and ruffled her hair which he knew drove her crazy but in a good way.
Adam noticed a change in Sandy almost immediately.
“What are you so goddamned happy about?” he would ask her repeatedly. “It’s not like you have any problems. I’m the one paying most of the bills around here.”
It was true but only because Sandy was saving her money.
She lied about how much she was making at the local gas station and gave him enough to cover the electricity and food for their tiny apartment.
Thankfully for her, he never found her hidden box beneath one of the floorboards in the closet that hid all of her journals and her lockbox of savings.
In two years she had saved up nearly six thousand dollars.
“And where have you been lately? Every night I come home and you aren’t here. What the hell’s up with that?” he grabbed a beer and she knew she was in trouble.
“I’ve been with Stacey. She’s having issues with Steve.”
“I’m sure she is. She’s a skank and Steve is stupid for wasting his time on her.”
“She’s my best friend.” Sandy said quietly.
She felt the back of his hand slam against her cheek.
“Shut up!” he said. “From now on, when I get home you better be here. Got it?”
She nodded as the tears strolled down her face.
“Can I get a Slurpee?” Sandy asked Tom as they pulled up to the 7-11.
“Anything for you.” He leaned forward and kissed her. “Are you sure you’re doing all right?”
“I am. Trust me. I know that this is the best thing for me.”
“I do too,” he said.
Sandy would never forget the night she ran all the way to Tom’s house in the pouring rain.
A few hours before, Tom had taken Sandy to a concert that he was absolutely sure that no one they knew would be at.
It was in the next town over and since Tom’s taste in music was extremely obscure for the small town that they lived in she agreed to go with him.
It was the first time in the three months that they had their secret relationship that they had ever ventured out beyond the confinement of Tom’s property.
They would spend hours just sitting on the porch and talking and Sandy had switched to the night shift to assure that she could visit Tom during the daytime without any threat from Adam ever finding out.
Since Tom was new in town and had no friends besides Sandy and few of the other guys who didn’t even like Adam, their secret was pretty safe.
The night of the concert, however, Sandy had felt a sharp tap on her shoulder during what Tom claimed to be his favorite song by the band because it reminded him of her.
Sandy turned abruptly and was staring straight at Steve.
“What the hell are you doing?” he screamed over the music.
Tom glanced over and knew who he was immediately.
“Let’s go.” he said in Sandy’s ear and led her by the hand towards the back exit.
Steve and another friend of his and Adam’s, Roy, were not too far behind them.
“Wait a second!” Steve was yelling. “You got a lotta nerve hanging out with Adam’s chick! And Sandy…..don’t think I’m not going to tell him!”
Sandy turned to beg him not to but Tom kept dragging her towards the car.
“Just keep walking.” he said in a low voice.
They drove away and Sandy instantly burst into tears and begged him to take her home.
“I’ll get there and explain everything. I’ll tell him that it was my fault.” She didn’t even realize what she was saying.
Suddenly, Tom slammed on the brakes and pulled over to the side of the road.
“Listen to me!” Tom said cupping her face in his hands. “You don’t have to do this anymore! We don’t have to do this!”
“But-” she started.
“I’m not talking about us! I’m not talking about this!” Tom was looking deep into her eyes. “I’m talking about hiding.”
She stopped crying and stared at him with fearful eyes.
“I’m serious, Sandy.” he continued. “I was going to tell you sooner but I’m going to be leaving town. I know I just got here but a great opportunity came up. I can go pretty much whenever I want to but it’s going to have to be by the end of next month. Some of my friends in North Carolina need a good guitar player and they really have the talent to make it up there. I gotta go.”
Sandy just started sobbing again. Her mind was reeling in directions she didn’t even know existed.
“I want you to come with me.” he said. “I want you to get the hell out of here and away from him.”
Tom and Sandy soon found themselves just pacing the aisles of the 7-11.
After nearly four hours of straight driving it felt good just to stretch their legs.
Tom picked up a bag of beef jerky and Sandy found a bag of chips.
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the top of her head.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you, too.”
“I’m getting tired. I’m going to ask this guy where the nearest hotel room is so we can get some sleep.” He motioned to the old man nearly falling asleep at the counter.
“Ok.” She said.
“Stock up on some goods. Whatever you want.” he smiled and made his way to the front of the store.
Sandy pounded on Tom’s door so loudly she was sure she’d wake up the entire neighborhood.
The thunder clapping loudly was probably doing a good job of that already.
Her left eye was swollen and she knew there were probably countless bruises on her back where Adam had kicked her.
Still, she knew that she needed to wake Tom up before it was too late.
After their talk on the side of the road, she promised him she would go home and start to pack the little that she had. In three days they would be on their way to North Carolina and in the meantime she would just hide out in Tom’s house.
Tom dropped her off a block from their apartment complex and Sandy was relieved to see that Adam’s truck wasn’t there.
He had no idea that she had the night off and she figured he was out at the bar like he was nearly every single night.
Sandy never feared that Adam would check on her at work because in all of the three years they had been together, he never visited her once.
Slamming the apartment door behind her she ran to the closet and lifted the loose floorboard.
After twisting the combination lock and removing the journals and the money she threw it all into a big duffel bag and started putting clothes into it.
She heard muffled voices heading towards the front door and froze.
I can sneak out the back, she thought.
The sliding glass door led to a small porch where she could easily hop over the railing unnoticed.
Zipping up the bag she locked the chain lock just as Adam stuck his key in the door.
“That bitch is going to pay.” She heard him say.
Suddenly the door opened roughly but only enough for someone to stick their arm through.
“Goddammit!” he screamed.
“She’s in there,” Sandy heard Roy say.
With no time to even be afraid, Sandy ran to the sliding glass door.
“Open up, Sandy!” Adam screamed. “I know you’re in there and I’ll break it down if I have to!”
“I’ll go around to the back.” Roy said but Sandy had already closed the door and was attempting to hop the railing.
By the time she hopped over and picked up her bag it was too late.
“She’s back here!” Roy yelled grabbing Sandy by the arm.
She tried to hit him with her bag but he was too strong.
He knocked her down where she picked up a huge rock and hit him with it right in the face.
“You bitch!” he screamed in pain. “Adam! She’s back here!”
The rain started falling instantly and a huge thunder clap nearly made Sandy scream in surprise.
She ran to the front of the complex where her car was parked nearly slipping as the ground was quickly turning to mud.
She ran past Adam who had no idea what was going on in the back but he saw her and ran after her.
She jumped into the car and locked the door behind her.
Adam banged on her window so hard she was sure it would break.
She fumbled with her keys and that’s when Roy came from around the backside of the apartment complex.
“Don’t let her go!” Adam told him and ran to his truck.
Sandy knew he had a spare key to her car and that’s when she started to panic.
In an instant she was out of the car and Adam had popped the hood and was ripping out whatever he could.
Roy pulled her out and she still was clutching onto the duffel bag.
Sandy saw stars as Adam hit her in the face and the force from the blow knocked her to the ground.
That’s when he started kicking her.
He kicked her so hard she was sure she was going to die on the spot.
Roy just stood there and didn’t say anything.
When he was finally done he picked her up and slammed her against the side of her car.
“Who is he?” he said.
She couldn’t even speak.
“It’s that new freak kid, Tom.” Roy spoke up.
“Where does he live?” Adam asked her.
All she could do was cry.
“Where does he live?!” he screamed again.
“Forget her, she’s not going to tell you. I bet Stacey knows. Or someone does. We’ll find out.”
Roy was already making his way to Adam’s truck.
“You try to warn him and I’ll kill you, too.” Adam said as he threw her to the ground again.
No sooner than they were off did Sandy make her way to her feet again.
She was dizzy and was sure that nearly all the bones in her body were shattered but she knew she had to make it to Tom’s house.
She started running and ignored the searing pain she felt with every move she made.
“That will be $55.28,” the clerk at the 7-11 was saying.
Tom paid him and then asked him where the nearest hotel was.
“About an hour down the road. You both look like hell,” he remarked. “Who did that to you?”
Sandy knew he was talking about her face and she definitely could tell that in his mind he was already blaming Tom.
“Someone far away. Someone we’ll never have to worry about again,” she said.
The clerk just stared at them and then changed his mind about calling the cops after they left.
As they walked out the door he called after them.
“You take care of that girl.”
“I will,” Tom said. “Believe me, I will.”
Tom opened the door and found Sandy drenched and breathing heavily.
She nearly collapsed in his arms.
“Sandy! What the hell?” he pulled the duffel bag from her and sat her on the couch.
“It’s him,” she said through sobs. “He’s coming here.”
“Oh my God!” he said noticing her face.
He ran to his kitchen to get her an ice pack and some water.
Sandy recounted what had happened as quickly as she could all the while sensing Tom’s anger rising.
“We have to go. We have to go now!” she said.
“Like hell we do.”
Tom stood up and started pacing. She could see the hatred for Adam in his eyes.
“Please,” she begged him. “I just want it over.”
She walked over to him and hugged him pulling him tightly to her.
“He’s coming here?” he asked her.
“Yes. With probably the whole town. At least all of those idiots at the bar. They’re a bunch of drunk, crazy rednecks. I don’t even want to think about what they could do. Let’s just go. I have money.”
She ran to her duffel bag and pulled out the wad of cash and thrust it into his hands.
“Where did you get this?” he asked her.
“I’ve been saving it for years. I’ve been looking for a way out. And Tom……”
He started sorting out the money amazed at the amount in his hands.
“You’re my way out. You’re what I’ve been waiting for for a very long time. I love you and I want to be with you forever.”
Tom stared at her and she could see the tears welling up in his eyes.
“Please. Let’s just go. I want out of here and I want away from him. And I want to do it right now.”
The sun was shining beautifully as Tom and Sandy made their way to the hotel holding hands as Jim Morrison crooned “Touch Me” on the car radio.
Sandy may have only had a duffel bag full of clothes and her journals but Tom was all she needed.
She gazed at him and pictured what it would be like to be constantly loved and cared for, instead of abused and beaten.
She sighed a sigh of relief and Tom lit up another cigarette as they cruised towards their future.
Suddenly, Sandy heard the familiar ring of her cell phone.
“Oh boy,” she said fumbling through her bag to find it.
Glancing at the display screen she felt a shiver run down her back.
“It’s Adam,” she told Tom.
He didn’t say anything.
“What should I do?”
“Nothing,” Tom said.
Sandy settled back in her seat and a few seconds later the cell phone rang again.
“He’s going to keep calling.”
“So?” Tom said.
Sure enough the phone kept ringing.
“Who pays for that?” he asked her.
“Who pays the bill for that?” he said flicking an ash out the window.
Suddenly, Tom grabbed the ringing phone from her and threw it out the window.
Sandy’s head looked back to see it crash onto the highway.
“I don’t think you need that anymore,” Tom smiled.
Sandy was still in shock but found herself laughing.
He was right.
Adam had no more control over her and never would again.
Her fear of him was just something she would have to get over and with Tom’s help and his undying love, she knew she would.
“You’re right,” she said. “You’re absolutely right.”
She laid her head on his shoulder and instantly felt right at home.