The Way Back Around: Chapter 7
Hanna was concentrated on her phone all through the fast food dinner as the TV played the news, one of only two channels, in the background. Her knees were up to her chest, tucked away in one of the threadbare chairs of the motel room. She hardly had opened her suitcase to unpack or change, and the last word I had heard from her was about wanting root beer with her meal at the drive-through.
After I changed into my sleep wear, I flipped off the TV and the ceiling light. Hanna glanced at me, then turned back to her phone. Some time before I began to doze off, it seemed as if she were getting ready for bed. After some ruffling through her own suitcase and a trip to the bathroom, I heard her shuffle into the bed at the opposite side of the room.
The next thing I remember was waking up to an empty bed beside me, the covers turned up at the corner. I rolled over and looked to the bathroom door, hoping to see a light coming from underneath it. The clock read 1 a.m. I sat up and looked about the empty room. Hanna’s suitcase was zipped up nicely in place, but she was nowhere to be seen. I jumped up and called her name. “Hanna?” I said lowly, slipping on my shoes over my bare feet.
I held tightly to the card key in my hand as I walked out into the hall, looking both ways down the empty hall. The dingy carpet was illuminated by the orange glow of old incandescents. I looked back into the room, noticing that Hanna’s shoes were also absent. The door clicked closed behind me as I began to march down in the direction of the lobby.
The young woman behind the counter looked up at me, hiding her tired eyes with a smile. “Anything I can help you with?”
“Did you see a girl head out here?” I blurted out, glancing out the glass of the front doors.
“Just about ten minutes ago, yes.” The receptionist replied.
“And you just let her go?”
The woman winced and bit her lip. “Well, she said she was told to head out to her car and get something.”
I grimaced and pulled myself away from the desk. “Thanks.” I said coldly, walking out into the darkness of the night.
The rental car beeped as I unlocked the car doors from the key fob, breaking the silence of the night. As I got in, I slung the belt over my shoulder and shoved the key into the ignition, staring it up. As I pulled out to the main street, I glanced both ways, wondering which direction Hanna might have headed. To the right was a continuous strip of light posts, leading the way deeper into the town. I pulled off and flipped on my headlights to the brightest setting, hugging the curb at a crawl.
The first buildings of the town’s main street came into view as I saw a dark figure marching along the sidewalk. I immediately shoved on the brakes, slowing the car to a craw not far behind the sole person. The long-haired, dainty figure glanced back, then picked up the pace. I lurched the car forward once again, before shoving it into park and jumping out.
“Hanna!” I yelled off into the night. Somewhere in the distance, a dog began barking.
“Just go back!” She called back, her pace not slowing. “I’ll be fine on my own!”
I ran up, holding back my tears, and yanked on her arm, forcing her to stop in place. A tiny backpack hung off her back, stuffed with unfolded clothes. “What the hell are you thinking?” I growled, attempting to get a look at her face.
“I’ve been too much trouble on you already.” Hanna said, yanking her arm out of my grasp.
“Like hell! Just get in the car. It’s past one in the morning!”
Hanna stomped upon the pavement and finally turned my way. “You’ve been all the way across the country since before I can remember, and now you want to try and be some sort of parent?” She cried out hoarsely.
I grit my teeth and shoved my hands in the pockets of my pajamas. “Obviously your mom thought I was good enough, sending you all the way to my place. All I could do was try to act the part the best I could.”
“And you just wanted to get rid of me!” Hanna cried out, hiding her face in the shadows.
I let out a long sigh, and stared back into the blinding beams of the headlights of the car. Another sole vehicle passed by on one of the cross streets up the road. “Come on. Just get in the car with me, and we can talk this out.”
“What are you planning to do, then?” I asked, my voice rising up.
“I have my phone, and my credit card. I’m taking a bus the rest of the way. There’s a station just up the road.”
I shifted about uneasily. “You have a credit card, do you?”
“Mom wasn’t just going to dump me off without any money, obviously.”
“I see she had less faith in me then before, even.”
“I don’t know.” Hanna replied meekly.
I stepped up in front of Hanna and attempted to get a look at her face. “If you had made it all the way to the bus, and they had let you on, all before I had come out here, how was I supposed to know what had happened to you?”
“A… listen, if I found this trip that much of a problem, we wouldn’t have even gotten half as far. To be honest… the last few days have been a lot of fun. Really. Getting barbecue, and getting sunburns, and…”
“And getting mad about me and my boyfriend?” Hanna sniffled angrily.
“That’s just me being a parent, or as close to one as I’ve been able to feel since I left you and your mom.”
“Then why not just let me stay with you in LA?”
I shook my head. “I wasn’t thinking. After getting to Dallas… I figured I just had to keep going. That’s why your mom and I split up. She said I was too… impulsive. Just like when I decided to do something as silly as try to drive all the way across the US. There were other things, too, like getting caught up in our work… but know that if we could have worked things out, and raised you together… we would have done so.”
“Really.” I said, grabbing up Hanna’s hands in my own. “Man, it got cold out here fast… let’s head back to the motel, okay?”
Hanna nodded and began to wander back in the direction of the car. “Sure.”