On my sixteenth birthday Mom drove to the local bakery to pick up a cake and never came home. The minister from church told me she died instantly when the train slammed into her stalled car and exploded on the railroad tracks.
I never knew my dad. Around my sixth birthday Mom mentioned she didn’t know him either. She woke one day on a deserted beach and had no idea how she had gotten there or who she was. She couldn’t remember anything about her life prior to that moment. Come to find out she was two months pregnant with me, too.
After Mom’s funeral I was ordered to live with a woman who’d sent documentation to the local authorities claiming to be Mom’s sister and my only living relative.
I spent days and nights on buses traveling from the town I grew up in on the west coast to another hick town in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Ironically, the Greyhound bumped over railroad tracks and stopped in front of a rundown wooden building so the only two remaining passengers could get off. I stepped into the night mist ahead of the scruffy looking old guy.
The woman reminded me of a bag lady I’d seen in a movie once as she stood from the bench she was sitting on in front of the dimly lit two-story.
“Gabriella Raines,” she said, adding my last name this time.
I nodded. “Ella. I go by Ella. Are you my aunt Betty?”
“The girl travels light like her mother,” came from the guy who’d followed me off the bus.
In the short time the woman and I exchanged words, the bus driver had pulled my suitcase from the outside storage compartment and put it down on the broken sidewalk and was already back on the bus driving away.
The old guy clearly had spoken to the bag lady, not to me. Eighty degrees on this humid summer night and an icy chill crawled up my spine. I stood tall in an attempt to stop shivering. “Who are you people?”
“Why this here’s your aunt Betty.”
Instead of another chill, a surge of heat shot through my veins when his beady dark eyes steadied on mine. “Suppose you’re my uncle.”
“Get her suitcase, Clarence. The car’s ‘round back.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you two.”
Bag lady whirled around and glared straight into my eyes. “If you don’t want to end up like your mother, you’ll do as I say. Now let’s go.”
My mouth opened to protest, then closed. Bag lady lowered her piercing gaze and swung away from me.
I followed her to the rear of the building.
Clarence tossed my suitcase into the back of a shiny black Escalade and climbed in behind the wheel. Aunt Betty opened the rear door and motioned for me to get in. I only hesitated long enough for her eyes to fix on mine.
I ducked inside and glanced back at her. “My mom was a hottie. You don’t look anything like her.”
Good I have super fast reflexes. Otherwise the toe of my sneaker would’ve gotten smashed when she slammed the door shut.
She hopped onto the front passenger seat and pulled on her seatbelt. I barely had mine fastened when the vehicle shot into the quiet street, door locks automatically snapping down.
The luxury vehicle glided over the railroad tracks and sped out of town into the night. “Either of you want to tell me where you’re taking me?”
Clarence glanced over the seat. His creepy smile brought back the shivers. “It’s a surprise.”
A set of headlights suddenly lit up his face and he shifted around in his seat. “We got company.”
He barely had the words out and I was thrown back against the seat when he floored the gas pedal.
I looked over my shoulder, squinting against the glare of headlights closing in on us. “Who’s after us?”
Neither gave me an answer as the sleek automobile picked up speed rounding a sharp curve in the country road. Another glance over my shoulder into the bright headlights before shifting back around to see we were headed straight for the side of a mountain. I screamed and closed my eyes the instant before impact. No impact. I opened my eyes and we were traveling at the same high speed. Only we were inside the mountain, going downhill fast.
Blinding red lights shot at us from the road up ahead. My eyes wide open this time when I screamed on impact.(c) Debra Lee