Charlotte couldn’t believe her luck. As Robert talked of the countries they’d visit and the movies they’d make, she studied his face. He looked older than his Facebook picture. Charlotte couldn’t help think Robert would be the perfect mate for her older sister, except Nancy wasn’t going to date until God brought her husband-to-be to their father for his approval. “Well Nancy,” Charlotte mumbled, “maybe now, God loves me more.”
“What did you say?” he asked.
“Sorry.” She quickly added, “I don’t have a passport.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t need one with me.”
“Where are we going? Going to live, I mean?”
“My folks have a house in the woods, we’ll go there for awhile.”
“My parents might come looking. What if they call the police?”
“You didn’t tell anyone about me, did you?”
“No, no one. I promise.”
“Then they won’t find us. I’ll take you where no one will find you.”
Charlotte grabbed the door handle. “But after you’ve written your movie and we become famous… I can go home and they will be proud of me. Right?”
“Sure, babe, sure.” He caressed her thigh.
An icy current shot from her legs to her spine; Charlotte remembered her mother’s favorite sweater stuffed in the bottom of the backpack. Digging through the bag distracted her enough to stop the tears. The aroma of peppermint candy her mother kept in each pocket choked a sob from her throat.
Robert noticed and took her hand.
“It’s okay, Charli. They won’t come looking. You said Thomas was their favorite.”
Hearing her words read off the screen and spoken aloud pierced her soul. It was true. But she would miss her little brother the most. She grabbed the Thomas the Train flashlight keychain clipped to her bag. With the other hand, she repacked her bag.
Once everything was securely stored, she ran her finger along the secret seam. It had been her dad’s idea years ago. After reading how missionaries smuggled pages of Bibles across enemy borders, he made them prepare for the day they would have to hide their faith. There were no Bible pages here only the crisp twenties she had stolen from the cookie jar and a family photo taken at Christmas. They would remain secret, for now.
“We’re almost there. You know I need you. You’re my main girl. There’s no movie without you.”
Charlotte looked for her reflection in the glass, nothing but a ghostly glare.
Her mother had wasted her own beauty in motherhood. Charlotte wanted more. She needed her family, her school, her church, yes, even her God to see she existed for more. Robert understood. He had picked her.
He could’ve had any girl. He reminded her of the beautiful people cast as Tolkien’s elves. She was certain Robert could walk on snow. Darkness concealed her ruby cheeks but her passion roused his scent. His eyes met hers. Charlotte grabbed the door handle but they moved to fast for her to jump.
Once the car left the interstate, conversation ended except for a curse with every pothole. Charlotte blushed at each foreign word. Maybe Robert wasn’t perfect for Nancy.
Their journey ended deep in a mountain cove, parked before an expansive hunting cabin. The morning sun glistened off the dew on hundreds of pinecones crunching under their steps. What a sight they must’ve been, a muscular young man in Diesel jeans and leather jacket next to a soon-to-be fourteen-year-old girl wearing her mother’s frumpy sweater hanging to her knees and a pink backpack in her hand.