Runaway

Lightning flashed, flickering on the curtains and walls. Dave heaved up out of his chair and looked outside. Storm clouds rolled and swelled above the trees. Dark, forbidding, they filled the formerly clear sky with chaos. It should have been an hour before dark, but the storm leached all the brightness from the sky.
    Another flash of lightning startled Dave. He saw the afterimage of the lightning hitting not far away. The roar of thunder sounded like a giant angry lion on the prowl. Dave's attention went to the TV antenna on a post in the middle of the clearing. It was an obvious target for the lightning. Dave hurried to the TV and pulled the plug from the wall. He disconnected the antenna wire and stood looking forlornly at the blank screen.
    The wind picked up considerably over the next few minutes, a wind that broke trees and removed shingles from even the sturdiest roof.
    "Good God," Dave whispered. It looked like the end of the world. The lights flickered, but thankfully remained on. He sat in his recliner and watched the horrendous storm from the safe comfort of his chair. The lights flickered again. He decided that he had better find candles and a lighter. The power was bound to go out soon. It usually did in a storm.
    Within 30 minutes most of the lightning had passed on, but the wind and the rain remained. Dave was bored, and worried. How was his car? It was a fully restored 1969 Mercury Montego. He had put a lot of work into it. Dave went to the nearest window, trying to see his car in the wind and rain. He could barely make out the shine of light off the trim around the windshield. A distant flash of lightning momentarily lit the car, and he gasped in surprise. Something was wrong. He could see something, he was not sure what, which looked out of place. He thought about it for a moment and realized that he had seen something in the car. He went shopping yesterday, did he leave anything in the car? No, he didn't. A person?
    He bundled up in a thick coat, picked up the poker and a flashlight, and hurried out the door. Seven long strides brought him to the car. He yanked open the door and turned on the flashlight. He was looking something in the face. All he could see was a small nose and two eyes amid a bundle of stinking, wet clothing.
    "What the hell are you doing in there?" he demanded, brandishing the poker.
    "Trying to get dry," a distinctive female voice said. He was momentarily at a loss.
    "Get out," he ordered, raising the poker as if to strike. Slowly the girl climbed out. She took a bookbag from the floor and stood. She was almost as tall as Dave. He was surprised, he had thought she might be a small girl. She was in her late teens. She started to turn away.
    "No, into the house," he said, stepping back. He was getting soaked. Rain was running into his eyes, making it hard to see.
    "Why?"
    "To get dry, silly. I have heat and food inside."
    "I don't know," she said uncertainly.
    "I could call the cops and have you arrested instead. I would probably be doing you a favor."
    "No, don't do that. I'll come in for a while," she said reluctantly. He hurried her inside. It was a relief to get out of the rain. It was hard to think when wind and rain tore at your face and body. She opened her clothes slightly and he found that she was pretty, in a way, but she looked dirty and smelled horrible. How could anybody be dirty after standing in that rain, he wondered.
    "What would you like to eat?" he asked, sitting down the flashlight and dropping the poker by the fireplace.   
    She hurried over to the fireplace and knelt before it. She rubbed her hands and moaned, then looked up as if she only then realized that he was still in the room. "Scrambled eggs and chili?"
    "Oh gross. I don't have chili," Dave said, making a face.
    "What have you got?"
    "I had meatloaf and potatoes for supper. There's a little left."
    "Fine. I'll make a sandwich out of the meatloaf, and I only eat butter on my mashed potatoes."
    Dave showed her the leftovers in the refrigerator. She added cheese to the plate containing the meatloaf and took it all to the table.
    "You... you stink," Dave said emphatically. "Do you want to take a shower?"
    "Sure, but all my clothes are dirty. I have nothing to change into."
    "I'll give you clothing if you take a shower. The stench is ungodly. Where have you been staying?"
    "Under porches, in utility sheds or doorways, sometimes in homeless shelters if they don't ask too many questions."
    "Why?"
    "None of your damned business."
    "Fair enough, as long as you aren't wanted by the law. Did you kill anybody?"
    "Hey fuck you," she slammed her sandwich down on the plate.
    "Sorry. I just want to know who will be sharing my roof tonight. I'm a little worried."
    "Well don't be. The only thing I'm wanted for is assault on my husband. I married him when I was sixteen. He beat me every time he got drunk, so I beat him with a piece of pipe while he was asleep. Then I ran. I don't think I killed him, but I didn't stick around to find out. Ok?" she demanded.
    "Ok. Sorry."
    She picked up her sandwich and began to eat. "You married?" she asked, looking around the house suspiciously.
    "No."
    "Kids?"
    "No."
    "Why not, you gay?" she asked in all seriousness.
    "Hell no!" he said defensively.
    She gave him a skeptical look then returned to her sandwich. Dave saw an unusual movement on her face.
    "There is a flea crawling in your eyebrow," he pointed. She rubbed her eyebrow furiously with the back of her hand, then continued her meal.
    "I have fleas everywhere," she said calmly. "Goes with the territory."
    "How can you live like this? Don't you have somewhere to go?"
    "Nope."
    "What about your parents, your aunts or uncles?"
    "I've never had a father, my mother is a whore, and I never knew any aunts or uncles. If I go home my husband will have me beaten to death. It ain't gonna happen."
    "Shit, what a waste."
    "Why?"
    "You can't live like this. Look at you."
    She simply shrugged and sat, shoving mashed potatoes and butter into her mouth. She chewed noisily, while he stood watching. She finally stopped and glared at him until he went into the living room. He reconnected his TV set and sat with the channel changer in his hand. At first he had been excited by the prospect of a female in the house. But now he considered her sub-human, hardly worthy of anything but pity. He could smell her even from there. God, how could anybody live like that?
    "Can I take a shower?" she asked, standing between the living room and the dining room. He looked up, wishing she would leave and take her fleas with her.
    "Sure," he heard himself saying. It's in there," he pointed behind her at the bedroom. The master bath had a full bathtub, which she badly needed. A shower wouldn't be enough. He followed her into the bedroom and handed her a towel.   
    "Go ahead," he pointed at the bathroom. I'll try to find something that will fit you. I will also bring a garbage bag for your clothes.
    "Don't throw them away, I need them. Wash them in Lysol," she said as she began dropping clothes on the bathroom floor. He watched in wonder as layer after layer of clothing came off. Besides her jacket, she was wearing a dozen different shirts and pants. She stopped as she was about to remove a man's t-shirt.
    "Are you going to watch?" she demanded.
    "Yes," he said firmly. She didn't even flinch. She pulled the t-shirt off, baring a wonderful set of small, firm, but dirty tits. She wasn't wearing a bra. He turned red in embarassment and hurried out. Once again he was thinking of her as a female, not a sub-human.
    "What's your name?" he called through the partially open bathroom door.
    "Linda. Linda Jane."

...CONTINUES IN THE MEMBERS SECTION