Angel fever, p.49
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       Angel Fever, p.49

         Part #3 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 49


  Back outside, the metal disc in the asphalt was so heavy that I’d have broken every bone in my hand if it had slipped – but when I started pumping, I was rewarded with a thin stream of gasoline. Yes! If my hands hadn’t been full, I’d have punched the air.

  Once the Toyota’s tank was full, I slid hurriedly into the driver’s seat; I put the jug with extra fuel in the passenger footwell, along with the precious pump. Then I groped under the steering column for the wires I knew were there and stripped them from their casings.

  Have you considered a life of crime? A hot day in Texas. Alex, grinning over his shoulder at me as he kept watch on the road. “Believe me, I’m considering it,” I muttered to his ghost.

  There. I twisted the wires together and touched my foot to the gas.

  Nothing happened.

  When it finally hit me, I scrambled out and ran back to the garage. After the fastest battery change in history, I got back behind the wheel and shut my eyes. “Please,” I whispered. I twisted the wires again.

  The engine fired into life. It was the most wonderful sound in the world.

  I manoeuvred my way out of the forecourt, pulled out onto the main road, and floored it. The traffic lights hung from their wires with blank, dead eyes, not even trying to hold me back – I raced through empty intersection after empty intersection.

  Dawn was just streaking across the east as I left Fallon behind. All I saw in the rear-view mirror was a small cluster of buildings on the horizon – and then they winked from view. God, what were the others going to think, when they woke up and found me gone? I wished that I could have said goodbye – to Liz, especially. And Seb.

  Suddenly I realized that he was the one I was running from…and when I thought of the look that would be in his hazel eyes, something unexpectedly painful stirred.

  But he’d wanted to leave the base; he’d only stayed because of his promise to Alex. If he still felt he should keep it, then he’d go to Idaho with the others. If not, he’d go his own way – maybe back to Mexico.

  The knowledge made me feel better; our lives had diverged a long time ago. I slid my hands back and forth on the wheel. Okay, I had to start heading east as soon as possible. Then find a road atlas and scavenge for food and water.

  At the moment I was travelling towards the interstate – and thinking of Seb again, I realized this was way too obvious. I took the first exit I saw and made my way instead to Route 50 East. Perfect. I’d stay on this for a while first; then once I had a map, I’d start travelling on back roads.

  As I drove down the old state highway with the dawn slowly lighting the sky, an unexpected feeling of freedom came over me. It hit me that this was the first time I’d been alone, really alone, in…god, years.

  The heartache over what had happened would always be with me. But at the same time, to be driving alone on an empty road, watching pink fingers of dawn reach slowly across the desert – to not have to answer to anyone for anything; to know that all my choices were mine, and mine alone…

  It felt as if I could breathe again.

  Kara’s pistol was still tucked in the back of my jeans. As I drove, I reached behind me and rested it on the passenger seat. Once I’d been so leery of guns, I could barely touch one. I still didn’t like them, but they were useful sometimes. Remembering what I’d promised Kara, I glanced down, briefly noting the pistol’s hard metal casing, the safety switch that was flicked on.

  And as I thought about what I’d have to do if I were captured, I felt no fear at all – only an iron resolve.

  THE NEXT FEW DAYS WERE a white blur. Snow flurries had followed me from Nevada into Utah, and I crossed the Rockies with trepidation, tapping the brakes and eyeing the poles, some seven feet tall, that would measure the drifts when the time came. It was almost December; the first big snowfall was already late. If it came now, I’d be stuck here until spring.

  I was so tired that my head felt weighted, but I kept on through the mountains. When at last the Rockies loomed up in the mirror behind me, I felt as if I could relax a little.

  As I pressed on, I stopped only for quick naps under the pink parka, grateful for it despite its lurid colour. Before I drifted off, I always reached out to my mother, just like I had so many times this last year – needing to sense her presence even if she never responded.

  Mom, I don’t know what’s happening in Pawntucket, but I promise I’ll stop it, I thought, staring up at the car’s ceiling. There was no answer, but her warm energy seemed to wrap around me – and I sent a silent thank you to whoever was keeping her safe.

  I had veered north around Salt Lake City Eden and headed up into Wyoming, rather than risk Colorado, my father’s state. The sky soared around me. Out here, there’d been little earthquake damage, plus I had some idea where I was going now – on the second day, I’d found a road atlas in an abandoned car.

  I was managing several hundred miles a day, which I prayed would be enough. The cattlemen out here were all in Raziel’s pocket; they’d turn me in to the angels in a second. So I stayed on little-used roads where I saw no other people at all. Sometimes, though, I’d pass rough signs – Green River Eden 36 mi. , turn L on Hwy 191. The angels love you! – and my skin would prickle.

  Once I passed one of the old posters of myself – and realized, startled, that even if I cut my hair short and dyed it red again, I wouldn’t look anything like that smiling girl. The Willow in the visor mirror had a thinner face – eyes that had known great sorrow. In fact, I didn’t really look like a girl at all any more. I looked like a woman.

  The idea was a little unsettling…then it shifted, became part of me.

  With no radio stations, the time passed in silence. Sometimes I sang as I drove, belting out all my old favourite songs; sometimes I just listened to the sound of the wheels trundling over snow.

  Food wasn’t too difficult. Every abandoned store I came to had at least a few canned goods left – though always things like kidney beans or stewed prunes. Never any junk food; the Cheetos and Funyuns had probably been the first things to go.

  Gasoline wasn’t really a problem either; it was just time-consuming. Crouching on frozen, abandoned forecourts to fiddle with a home-made pump should probably have been my least favourite thing to do as the days passed – but, actually, it gave me a feeling of satisfaction every time I did it.

  After replacing a filler tank lid one morning in central Wyoming, I straightened up and gazed over snow-dusted plains. A flock of geese were flying south in a V-shape, and I watched for a moment, wondering why they’d waited so long to migrate.

  And somehow, despite everything that had happened, and everything that might still be to come, I realized that I felt…peaceful.

  Sun gleamed on the snowy plains. The geese grew smaller against the clear sky, and my body felt lighter suddenly, as if I could take off and fly through the air after them.

  “I’ll always love you, Alex,” I murmured. “But I think I’m going to be all right without you. And I can’t tell you how glad I am. ”

  “Okay, this was not a good idea,” I muttered as the tyres jolted over snow-covered ruts.

  It was the third day. I’d been eyeing the smooth grey sky and getting more and more worried about a serious snowstorm – and then some intuition had made me turn off the rural highway I was on, onto this unmarked dirt road.

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