Shandi wants to flee from her old life, and meeting Josh is great. Or, is it?
No last name. That was how she wanted it. Ever since she got out of that hellhole, she had been relishing her newfound freedom. For the yearning had been there, gnawing at her, like a bed full of hateful body lice sucking the blood out of her…
Shandi gripped the shoulder strap of her duffel bag and stepped out gingerly into the faint morning light. The sun would be out soon, bathing the whole of grimy Nirvana Street in its ethereal golden glow.
She stared around at her surroundings with the wonder of a five-year-old who was looking at his first triple-chocolate-dip sundae. She was free; she was finally out. Away from her stupid family in that creepy house, away from the annoying orange cat who always scratched her on the arm…
The rubbish dump where she had camped the previous night looked different in the bright morning light—it looked somewhat more clean and inviting. She shook herself, trying to work out the kinks in her body. It sure was cramped in that hole the whole night…
The dusty-red alley walls held a whole new meaning for her right then—they represented her ancestors—a whole bunch of people who had run away and made the back alleys their home, scrawling their hopes and fears onto the molten rock of the solid brick walls… Like her.
Shandi stepped forward and put her hand out gently, flinching slightly at the rush of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her. The exhilaration, the thrill, the joy, the sadness, the pain… All these from just looking at a few scratches in the wall.
Shandi shook her head and laughed.
Sometimes, she could get so emotional. Sometimes, she could be so child-like. But she was already seventeen (been so for the past three months); and her tolerance level for her uber-dysfunctional family had just reached its limit. So she had packed up and left. She wasn’t about to remain in that low-end hellhole that was masquerading as a home any longer. Not with her drugged-out parents hurling pieces of driftwood (they had to make do with those for the fireplace during the winters) at her and her younger siblings. As long as Shandi knew that Joe and Kuri were staying at their grandaunt’s place, she could leave her own home in peace.
She could forge a life that she never had. She could actually live in peace and safety. And so she had trekked the twenty miles from Seaside Bay (the name sounded darn nice, but in reality, it was a junkie town where the inhabitants had been forgotten by the rest of America.) to… here. Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly twenty miles. It was more like, two miles. But it was far enough, and besides, she had to stay close in case something cropped up with Joe and Kuri.
Shandi slowly made her way out of the back alley. She still wanted to finish high school. She wanted at least a diploma so that she could really get out of this drab place.
So she would first have to find someplace to stay. Some cheap room in some old granny’s house probably. Or maybe she could hide in the storage room of the high school…
Shandi didn’t see him until this huge, black shadow fell over her. She looked up, and up, and up, to see… this absolutely gorgeous guy in a black ski cap and leather jacket, looking furtively behind him.
He didn’t appear to have seen her yet.
Shandi didn’t have a good feeling about him. Yes, he was no doubt the most good-looking male she had ever seen (most probably in her whole life), what with his chiseled jaw and sharp cheekbones. And those darting, broody dark eyes, and the little turfs of chestnut-coloured hair she could see peeking out from under that ski cap.
But good-looking people were bad news. She had learnt that very lesson from none other that her own parents. They were two incredibly beautiful people who had had a bad case of fatal attraction, and even now, still had no qualms about screwing each other. It was like, they enjoyed self-destruction, and Shandi had seen all those people who came for those psychotic parties her parents threw—they looked like they stepped out of the glossy pages of People magazine.
It was crazy. Her parents and their friends were self-suffering idiots who reversed the rule of thumb that drug addicts are desperate and hard-up convicts looking for a constant quick fix.
Shandi vowed that she would never be like them.
But at least she had learnt a few useful lessons from them.
She took one look at the gorgeous guy and shrunk instinctively away from him.
The very next moment, the guy’s hand came out from inside the pocket of his leather jacket, and the sunlight glinted off the wicked-looking blade of the Swiss Army knife he was holding.
Shandi didn’t flinch.
Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. She was drilling herself like it was a sacred mantra that would save her life. And it would.
The guy’s head slowly swiveled around. His mouth dropped open when he saw her. “You—” Then he took another quick look behind his back and moved neared into the alley.
Shandi eyed his knife warily.
He smirked at her. “You looking for a quick bust?” He dipped his other hand into his jacket pocket and out came a couple of blue pills lying in the palm of him hand.
They looked innocuous enough. Like some chewable candy that a child had gotten from a sweet store around the corner.
But it wasn’t. Shandi recognized the pills in an instant. Her breathing grew shallow, and she repeated her mantra silently to herself. She wanted those things out of her sight that very moment. Don’t come nearer…
“Josh. I’ve some other kinds…” The guy, Josh, started to dig around in his pocket again.
Shandi knew she looked like a druggie. Hell, she bet she looked more like a druggie than the Josh dude, though she didn’t do drugs, and he probably did. Her normally pale face had gotten even more gaunt the last couple of days she was out on the streets, and her long dark fringe that was half-covering her face probably didn’t help matters much.
“You okay?” Josh’s face suddenly swam much closer into her view. He was peering close at her face, his dark brows furrowed.
“Y-Yeah…” Shandi stammered, looking away from his penetrating gaze.
Josh continued frowning. “Hey, you look kinda familiar—”
He was cut off by the unmistakable thudding made by hard combat boots hitting on the pavement. And the footsteps were getting nearer.
“Shit.” Josh’s face twisted into a mask of bitterness and anger.
Shandi suddenly realized that he looked familiar to her, too. She always saw his ski-capped head whenever she peered through the tiny crack of her slightly-opened bedroom door, to see him deliver whatever drugs her parents had ordered from him…
But she didn’t know he had seen her too.
A small-time drug dealer. Low scum of the earth. She despised him like the grotesque picture of the snakehead Medusa she had unwittingly drew the last time she had been taking Art.
Shandi shuddered and moved to step past him, but before she could do it, someone else entered the alley.
The new arrival had a clean-shaven head and was decked out in attire similar to Josh’s. However he had a cut on the side of his head where a steady stream of blood was flowing. And it was making his otherwise perfect face damn bloody too.
His face was beautiful but it was marred with ugliness. The twisted grimace on his face, the sky-blue eyes growing icier and icier…
Shandi was freaked. She didn’t want to stay around these people any longer.
The guy suddenly whipped out a switchblade and flicked it open.
Shandi felt nauseous. She wanted to get out ASAP.
“You owe me big-time, Davidson.” He was sneering. The shiny blade waved about menacingly in the air.
Then he seemed to notice Shandi for the first time. “Oh, who do we have here?”
Josh stepped in front of her. “Leave her alone, Rick.”
Rick refused to leave it. “Ooh! I know! She’s that damn Cardia kid! Rich kid, eh?”
“You’re getting high.” Josh said pointedly to Rick. He did seem to be losing his focus and his eyes clouded over into a stormy haze. Rick was losing it.
Shandi felt her chest constricting, and it was as if her nostrils and mouth weren’t enough for her to suck in all the air she needed. Calm down. Relax… she told herself.
There was a loud thump, and to her surprise, she saw Rick slump forwards onto Josh, and then Josh slowly lowering him onto the ground.
He straightened up and turned to look at Shandi. “You okay?”
It was the second time he was asking her that, she realized.
But what he represented threatened the entire basis of her existence, and yes, she hated to admit it, but she was fearful of him. And fear made you do irrational things.
So when Josh reached out a hand to grab her as she fell, she heard herself say, “Get away from me, you junkie.”
When Shandi came to a few moments later, the first thing she saw was Josh. He was squatting on one knee in front of her, eyebrows furrowed and looking at her with a quizzical expression in his dark, impenetrable eyes.
“I don’t do drugs.” He told her evenly, sincerely.
And she believed him.
She ran with him ever since that day.
The very first day they met. Or maybe, the first day they had acknowledged each other. For it was probably a couple of years since they had glimpsed each other, hovering on the fringes of each other’s lives…
Josh and Shandi. Destined to meet.
She loved the sound of that.
Shandi stuck her head out of the passenger side window, loving the way the wind was whipping her hair wildly around her head. They were going probably a hundred miles an hour; and she just loved it.
The pick-up truck sped down the Nirvana highway like a freight train on fire. The setting sun was sending vast streaks of fiery orange-red across the whole sky. Shandi felt just like her surroundings. The joy and passion she felt for her life were suddenly boundless—she was a jaguar striding freely in the Amazon; she was a snow-white dove taking off into the blue-green air; she was Shandi, riding with Josh, the love of her life.
Shandi turned her head slightly and stared at Josh out of the corner of her eye. Two weeks and one day. That was how long it had been since they ran
into each other in the alleyway that day.
After Josh had told her that he didn’t do drugs, he had stared at her for a moment longer before standing up. He’d looked like he wanted to go off right then.
Shandi finally opened her mouth. “Wait…” Don’t go. She wanted to tell him. “Can I follow you?”
And that was it, really.
He’d seemed more than glad for her to tag along after him. His beautiful face had broken out into a radiant smile, and he had reached down to pull her up after him. He had helped her shoulder her duffel; he had steadied her when she almost fell.
She became his housemate in a dingy little apartment a little ways from Montford.
The way that Josh looked at her, the care and concern he showed her… Shandi wasn’t so detached from human emotions that she didn’t know he was interested in her. And more than a little, in fact. The first time someone came to create trouble—and had seen her there—he had taken a hit on the head by a glass bottle, for her. He had nursed her back to health after her nasty bout of flu from getting soaked in a thunderstorm. And there were many other things.
But Shandi didn’t speak much to Josh. She smiled at him, and nodded to show her appreciation, but other than that, she didn’t show a single ounce of interest in him.
When Josh appeared at her room door the night before, a solemn expression clouding over his handsome features, Shandi had had a bad feeling in her guts.
“Shan, I gotta leave.” He walked slowly into her room and lowered himself onto her bed, facing her.
She just stared at him, her face as expressionless as ever.
“I know you’ve gotta finish your education…” There was a pause. It sounded like something was dropped into a vacuum, where it would fall for eternity. “But I’ve had a great couple of weeks, and I won’t forget it. I love you.”
Josh stood up and turned slowly towards the door.
The something dropped into the vacuum actually hit the bottom. There was a slight thump on the hardwood floor.
Josh turned back around.
Shandi had dropped her duffel bag onto the floor and was stuffing her belongings in. “I’m coming with you.”
Shandi pulled her head back in, turned and grinned at Josh. “This is so nice.”
He smiled at her, but it seemed to be full of sadness… and regret. A moment later though, it was gone.
Shandi told herself that she must have imagined it.
Suddenly, she felt like she was struck with the strangest feeling. One of ridicule. She turned and looked out at the barren landscape speeding by. They were leaving the town of Seaside Bay—her hometown, her family, her future.
What was she doing? Why was she following this guy she had known for barely two weeks? Why was she giving up everything for him?
Because she had nothing left. She had sworn her past out of her life, deserted her family, and it was ridiculous to think that she could still hope to graduate out of high school when her mind was scattered like fragments of broken glass.
But Josh liked her, and she liked him too; so how come she couldn’t tell him her true feelings?
She didn’t know.
“Hey, we are here.” Josh stopped the truck and unbuckled his seat belt.
“Where is this place?”
“Some place of my uncle’s. We’re stopping over here for the night.”
Shandi continued sitting in the truck, gazing in awe at the scene spread out before her. The little brick cottage looked like something out of a child’s forgotten fairytale, and the last rays of the orange glob of sun left fanned out behind it, framing it in a golden casement.
She didn’t know anything so beautiful existed in Nirvana.
Josh was looking sheepishly at her when she got down from the truck. “I know it’s not much, but ya know…”
“It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.” Shandi said sincerely.
Josh looked surprised, but he recovered quickly. “Whatever you say.” He grinned at her.
Shandi was sitting on the steps of the dingy little back porch of the cottage, staring up at the zillions of tiny, twinkling stars, when Josh appeared beside her. He folded his long, lean frame onto the little bit of space left beside her, and was quiet.
It was a little bit of a squeeze, but Shandi didn’t mind. She smiled contentedly and continued gazing in wonder at the fragments of dead planets that were scattered across the sky like grains on a cornfield. The stars in the night sky held so much meaning for her. Each one was shining and giving off its own ethereal glow. Every star seemed to have a story to tell.
“Do you know… if you wish upon the Blue North Star, your wish will come through?” Josh suddenly asked her.
Shandi turned to face him, her brows furrowed. “Really?” Her breath caught in her throat, upon seeing the look he had on his face. There was so much joy, so much… love. Bliss, contentment, exhilaration. All in that moment. She wanted to capture it and keep it in a bottle in her heart forever.
Josh slowly tilted his head and looked up towards the sky. Shandi let her gaze linger on his angled, perfect profile, before following his glance up the sky.
The North Star. It was really blue. Burning like a magical flame right there amongst all the other stars. This star seemed like it had a million stories that
it was bursting to tell.
“Shandi,” Josh whispered. He looked back down at her. He lifted his finger and let it trace her right cheek, slowly and tenderly. “I love you.”
Shandi could not deceive him any longer. Oh, yes, yes, yes!! She loved him too! Like the sunlight caressing the swaying corn grass in the day, the moonbeam spilling its light over the little window into her room each night. It was natural, all encompassing, and unstoppable.
It was something that could stay in her no longer. She could not keep it bound and locked in its cage anymore. “Josh,” Shandi cried. She felt as if she had unlocked not only her feelings for him, but also that of her whole life’s. It was overwhelming, it was powerful, and it was life changing. She could never trust anyone else like she trusted him.
“I love you too.”
Josh couldn’t hide the surprise on his face. His mouth dropped slightly open, and his dark eyes blinked once, twice. He finally found his voice. “Ohmygod, Shandi. Oh my God.” Like her, he was crying now, the raw and heartfelt emotions spilling out of him in spurts and bursts. “Oh my God,” he muttered again, pulling her in for a hug that was so tight that she felt as if he was trying to squeeze the life out of her. Or squeeze all the love out of her.
Either way, she didn’t mind. Shandi hugged Josh back as if her life depended on it.
She was so damn thrilled that it was all out in the open. That she could finally love Josh back as freely as he had loved her all this while.
The next day, Shandi and Josh walked out of the idyllic cottage hand-in-hand, like a fairytale couple whom had just woken up after their first night in a beautiful, majestic castle.
“We are going up to Castle’s End.” Josh said, smiling down at her.
It sounded so appropriate, so perfect.
Shandi’s left hand gripped tighter on the handle of her duffel bag. “Okay.” She smiled back up at him.
On the long drive up to Castle’s End, Shandi finally found herself opening up to Josh. She could tell him of all the worries that had plagued her, of the circumstances that had forced her to flee her home and family.
But deep down in her, she knew that as much as he loved and understood her, he could never fully understand just where she was coming from. He couldn’t, because he’d never been in her shoes. He couldn’t see how someone as rich as her had all these… problems basically related to her excess wealth, how she just loathed all the material good that this wealth had brought her.
Josh grew up in the housing projects on the other side of town. The seedy, rundown side of town. He’d never been well off, and secretly, he envied the rich kids who lived in the large, sprawling mansions.
Shandi noticed that Josh was trying hard to nod his head in sympathy to her tales, but she could see that she would never be able to get through to him. On this issue, at least.
So, she fell into one of her trademark silences. Josh seemed genuinely grateful for this, as his hunched up shoulders gradually eased down into a relaxed form.
Soon, they fell into a companionable silence, which was occasionally interrupted by one of Josh’s good-natured ribbing about the barrenness of the landscape. Shandi joined in with a few comments of her own, and fell into a highly satisfied, blissful state. She felt incredibly safe here, and she wanted to stay like this forever.
Shandi didn’t know she had dozed off, till the sudden stopping of the truck jerked her awake.
She rubbed her bleary eyes and blinked away the sleep. “Are we there yet?” She turned to Josh.
He was staring at her, a little half-smile tugging the corner of his lips. “You’re drooling.”
“I’m not!” Shandi half-shrieked, one hand rushing up to touch the corner of her mouth. It was dry—she wasn’t drooling!
Josh laughed; his eyes crinkling like this amazing maze had touched down on his face. It was as if he suddenly lost a whole chunk of the load he’d been carrying for years. His whole face seemed to lighten and glow right before her eyes, and his posture seemed much, much lighter…
Shandi blinked. She wasn’t dreaming. Josh was laughing, and she was laughing too!
For the past week, she had barely cracked a smile, but now, here she was, laughing away! She laughed, and laughed, letting all the pent-up emotions slowly seep out of her.
It felt good to laugh. Shandi realized with a start that she hadn’t laughed in a long, long while. Hell, she couldn’t even remember when she had last laughed.
Suddenly, she was aware that Josh had fallen silent. He was looking at her with a concerned squiggle between his brows.
She didn’t even know when her laughter had morphed into tears. Into heaving, wracking sobs. Shandi took in a deep, shuddering breath. She couldn’t stop crying.
Josh couldn’t bear to see her like that anymore. He leaned forwards and enveloped her in his arms.
Shandi finally realized just how liberating it was to let someone into your life. How, in this way, life stopped looking as hard as a ten-meter tall boulder blocking her way.
At Castle’s End, Josh rented a rundown apartment unit overlooking some industrial development parks. Shandi hated the place, but she tried her best to make it as comfortable and livable as possible.
Anyway, there was Josh, and that was enough. Shandi loved the way he would smile in his sleep, in the same way he smiled when he looked at her. She wondered whether he was dreaming about her.
She never dreamed about him, but she had a real-life dream gnawing away inside of her.
Shandi wanted to obtain her art degree. She loved her art; it was the only thing that kept her going in those dark, stifling days, when she’d sit in her huge bedroom with the curtains drawn tightly across the floor-to-ceiling glass that masqueraded as windows, shutting out the bright afternoon sunshine. There would be sounds of loud music and thumping coming from other parts of the house, but she blasted her Beethoven, so that it sounded like a madman hammering away at the keys, producing an angry and searing piece of music. She’d hoped it would drown out the sounds—it never did.
She would sit on the floor, back against the stand of her bed, and draw. Sketches, really. Her pencil moved over the worn out drawing pad with the speed of light, etching harsh, dark lines on the paper. Contrasted with smoother, lighter lines… Shading, creating shadows… Dimensions… Somehow, they all came together to form a coherent picture on her piece of paper. And she’d churn out over a hundred of these.
Shandi would almost always draw pictures of happy and nice things. A family scene in a dining room, smiling and chatting, peaceful landscapes in muted tones, stills-life of vases and bowls of fruit.
Safe things. Happy things were generally safe things. Her drawings helped lull her into a false sense of security. Whenever she was drawing, Shandi could pretend that the things she were bringing to life on her drawing pad were real and she could somehow escape into them. They were a blanket of hope when the going got too tough.
Her art teacher had told her plenty of times that she had real talent—she could easily get an Art scholarship and leave this place. But of course, she would have to finish high school first.
Shandi’s mind was made up. First thing tomorrow, she would look into getting enrolled in the local high school. No matter what it took, she was determined to continue on with her education. She was not about to let her art die out on her like everything else in her life.
Shandi was sitting on the dingy slump of a couch in the cramped living room, hugging her knees nervously to herself and waiting for Josh to return. He had gotten a job as a pizza delivery guy a few days after they had arrived, and though the meager salary could cover the bills, it was barely enough.
Shandi wondered briefly whether she should look for a job too, seeing as how she wanted to start school again. They were already here for two weeks, and in that time, she had gotten out around the neighbourhood enough times to know her way around—and knew where she could perhaps get a after-school job at the nearby greengrocer’s. Or something. She had to do something.
Ever since Josh had met her that day, he had said that he was going to stop being a dealer—pronto. He wasn’t going to contribute to any more wastage of lives/ violent crime rates/ whatever anymore. He wanted to come clean, though he swore he’d never touch those things before. So, without that fast and hard cash he made back when he was running around supplying drugs, he had to get down to holding a decent job.
It was hard, but he was persevering. And Shandi was damn proud of him for that.
Now though, she wondered what he would say when she told him about her decision to resume schooling. He would probably encourage her to go ahead. Yes, that would be it.
But Shandi couldn’t stop the little niggling of worry in her chest, and she stood up suddenly, unable to sit still a moment more.
She grabbed a cloth and stalked into their room, determined to give the whole place a good wipe down. At least then, she could put her abundant energy to good use. She knew where all this energy was coming from—her fingers were just itching to grasp hold of a pencil and fly across the page. Her A3 drawing pad, to be precise. She wanted to see it, touch it… But she couldn’t. She had burned it all when she had packed up and left that night. She couldn’t bring it along, and she couldn’t risk it being found by her parents… so she had no choice but to destroy it. Her heart ached, but her creations will always remain within her.
As Shandi scrubbed the little wooden top of the squat chest of drawers next to Josh’s side of the bed, she thought about all the beautiful things she could draw again. The wonderful parts of life… She could draw Josh.
She smiled tenderly and moved the cloth over to rub out a tiny, white smudge caught at the edge of the polished wood. It looked horribly ugly and jarring there—a spot of dirty white on the smooth brown wood.
The dirty spot couldn’t be erased. Strange.
Shandi moved her face closer and peered at it.
Her heart stopped cold.
She felt that familiar hard squeeze in her chest. That shortness of breath. The giddy rush in her head. She couldn’t breathe…
She sat down on the floor, hard. Swallowing with difficulty, she reached one hand out, and pulled the top drawer open. There was nothing. She grabbed the knob on the second one, and pulled. There was a mess of papers inside, and she stuck her head in and rummaged through them furiously. Nothing. The last drawer.
With a shuddering breath, she slid it open, cautiously, hardly daring to look. A long and flat wooden box was inside it. She took it out. There was a lock on the lid, but it was flimsy.
Holding it gingerly, as if she were afraid it might burst into flames in her hands, Shandi laid it on the floor in front of her.
There were little smudges of white on the side of the lid.
She took it up and smashed it against the floor, breaking apart the lock.
The latch fell open, and the cover thudded onto the floor, spilling its contents everywhere.
She pushed herself as far away from the powdery white substance as she could, her back pressed hard against the peeling wallpaper on the wall, staring at the monster that had been hidden in the box, locked away, but now, she had broken through and found… Found what? What?
A horrible, strangled, animal cry rose out of her throat.
When Josh finally came back from his job, Shandi was still lying on the bedroom floor.
Her frenzied sobs had subsided somewhat, but she was still unable to get up from the floor, her body curled up into a tight ball, eyes clenched shut and arms wrapped around herself. She still couldn’t wrap her mind around what she had found, what she had seen… How it had just been lying mere feet away from where she slept every single night for the past weeks.
How could it be?
She didn’t want to admit it.
Didn’t want to believe what her mind was telling her.
What was so horrible about this whole thing--Josh had betrayed her.
She heard his voice before she saw him. He moved around the apartment, calling out her name, and finally, he saw the slightly open bedroom door, and pushed it open.
He saw her before he saw it. His eyes opened wide in abject terror, as he rushed towards her, “Shandi, are you okay….” His voice was thick with concern and worry for her.
But then, his glance chanced upon the white mess on the floor. His beloved cocaine.
He stopped short of her, three feet away. “Shandi,” his voice was a croak.
Everything had changed.
Before, when he had just been running towards her, she had thought that maybe she could still be mistaken, that the cocaine wasn’t his, that he was stashing it for a friend, or something… Anything, but this. This guilty look on the floor. This soft whisper of her name, begging for forgiveness. This… defeated hunch of his shoulders, as he looked back up slowly towards her.
She had gotten up.
Somehow, miraculously, she had found the strength when she thought she had none left. She stood there, face pale and shaken, but still she stood. She looked right at him.
This was a statement, and it needed no verification. In any case, Josh’s uncomfortable squirm just sealed his guilt.
Shandi shook her head. She felt so exhausted, so bloody sick of all these. All these lies, day in, night out. Every single day this past month might have been part of his lies for all she knew.
Josh still wouldn’t look her in the eyes. “Shan, I’m sorry.”
He wasn’t perfect.
He never was.
But he had appeared perfect when he had told her, so sincerely and honestly (or so she thought), that he didn’t do drugs. “I don’t do drugs,” he’d said that very first day.
I don’t do drugs.
His beautiful face was wrenched with pain when he finally looked at her. She remained silent. Those deep green eyes were begging her to just forgive him. To let him back into her life.
He was so beautiful.
She loved him so much.
But her absolute fear and disgust for what he loved and sustained on was just too great. She couldn’t overcome it. And hopefully, she never would.
She abhorred it.
She had to live with it for seventeen long years, and she had thought that by running away from home, she was finally free from it. Or not. So in fact, she had still been living with it. Her skin crawled. She was revolted.
And now, looking at him, she no longer saw that beautiful face, with its razor-sharp cheekbones and perfectly symmetrical features. Yes, he was still the most gorgeous human being she had ever seen in her life. He still looked flawless on the outside. But on the inside… she didn’t even want to think about it. He was just like one of them. He might just as well be one of them.
“No.” The word burst out of her before she could even stop it. But she was glad. It was exactly what she wanted to say to him.
“Shandi?” Josh closed the distance between them in one long stride, but it wasn’t that easy. The distance that had suddenly stretched out before them felt vast, impassable. He reached out and grabbed her arm, tugging her to stop.
She had grabbed her bag from under the bed, and was stuffing all her belongings in. Just some clothes and money, that was all. She had nothing else.
“Shandi? Please.” Josh sounded like he was about to break down now.
She moved past him and stepped out the door. There was nothing to feel sad about. She was leaving him and that was it. She didn’t have anyplace to go to, but so what? When she had fled from her home in Seaside Bay, she had slept in the back alleys.
“Shandi! How am I going to find you?” Josh half-hollered, half-cried at her, as she slipped out through the front door.
She adjusted the shoulder strap of her duffel, hugging it closer to her, as she clip clopped down the dark stairway in her boots.
With a few last steps, she reached the street level and pushed open the swinging metal door, bursting out into the dark night.
She was out.
No last name.