“This Way to the Egress” The Meeting

It had been a long two days. Elias was hungry, but made do with as little as possible… It would be best for Naomi if he laid low until he turned eighteen, and was legal. He’d been able to work under the table in Utah, he’d known people more than willing to overlook his status and keep quiet. Here, he knew nothing and no one. The last thing he wanted was to get Naomi in trouble for harboring a ‘runaway’. She was Amish, for chrissakes. No, he was going to have to live on what he had in his pocket until he was legal. It was simply how it was. He hadn’t asked what Naomi was going to want…need…from him, and she hadn’t offered, but he knew she couldn’t afford to keep him as a pet. She was broke, worse than he was. He had a skill, he’d worked since he was small, quick enough to pick up the ins and outs of construction. And then he’d shown an innate grasp of wiring, he could go right back into that. He’d love to do it correctly, a true apprenticeship, now. He wasn’t afraid of work, he was more afraid of the dark truth that Naomi kept pushing at him…he’d need a GED to get where he wanted to be. He’d gleaned enough from their discussions to realize that Naomi was frighteningly bright, and that was the reason she had left home. She’d never been thrown away as he had been, she had a home and a family that still cared. No, she’d left because she wanted an education. She wanted to learn, and that had been denied to her. Reaching for it had been reason enough for her to leave, and the idea of it stunned Elias. She sounded so different than what he was used to, but yet so close.

He’d never been so happy to get anywhere in his life. It was almost full dark when the bus pulled into the station, and he waited until the end of the line to fall into step…scared to leave. What if Naomi wasn’t what she seemed? What if it was a lie? He was now halfway across the country, no friends, nowhere to go… He was exhausted, cold, and completely worn bare.

The station was too bright, and he blinked owlishly against the onslaught of the fluorescent lighting. He had really no good idea what he was looking for. Just because Naomi had been raised Amish meant nothing, he knew that all too well. He’d seen it before with the young women who ran, they cut their hair, shucked their dresses, and worked hard at looking nothing like what they’d been raised to be.

But still, he knew Naomi the first moment his gaze fell upon her. She wasn’t running, truthfully. She’d been allowed to go, much as he found that difficult to grasp. Women weren’t let go, they ran.

The young woman standing uncertainly before him still toed a certain line of modesty that he found immediately appealing. She still had long hair, a dark, naturally hued blonde. She wore no makeup or jewelry. Her clothes were serviceable and decently modest. “Naomi?” He guessed warily, and she answered with a grin.

“Elias.” Her gaze was frankly measuring, and he wondered if he passed inspection. She was a tall one, far from the waifish build so fashionable in the outside world. “Welcome to Ohio.”

“Thank you, Naomi. Truly.” She had an accent, intriguingly foreign, for all that he knew she had been born, bred and raised as American as he was. “Have you eaten yet?” He hoped not. He’d love to get this off on the right foot, and he couldn’t come up with a better start than to feed her.

“Ah…no.”

“I’m buying.” He offered, and she nodded after a long pause.

“Sure. Sounds good.” She finally admitted, falling into step beside him. He let her choose where, although he cringed at the idea. But she easily selected a small family restaurant close by, reasonably priced.

“It’s great to finally get to meet you.” He offered, lamely, after the distraction of selecting and ordering was taken away from him. He had very little experience talking to girls, even though he was supposed to know this one better than most.

She smiled, but it was a wary, distant smile. She had so many more reasons to be leery of this than he did, she’d really gone out on a limb for him. “Naomi.” He breathed, “I know I can’t thank you enough. I’ll do my best, I promise… everything we discussed.”

Her eyes were almost green, he realized, like leaves fading into autumn. “I hope so.” She breathed, “Elias, I’m not the sort who…” She let the words die off, shaking her head at them.

“Not the sort that lives with a man, no, Naomi, I know that. Roommates. I get it.” Oh, no. He was not going there. She had to understand that. “So give me the ground rules.” There had to be some, and oddly, he was looking forward to them. He’d had quite enough of living in a no rules household. It was a disaster, and that’s why he was fleeing.

“I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have a boyfriend.” She counted them off on her fingers. “I go to bed early. I don’t party. You’ll have your own bedroom. Your own bathroom. Your own door, your own living room. Kitchen and laundry is common, but that’s it. I don’t want you smoking in the house. You clean up your own messes, especially in the kitchen. I don’t want you drunk. I don’t want you stoned. But you have your half of the house, and I have my half… it’s worked pretty well in the past. It’s not the best neighborhood so I need you to swear you’ll be careful with the doors and windows.”

“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs.” If he was going to, he’d have just stayed in Utah. He could have gotten all of that easily enough there. “And I’ll be careful. How much do I owe you?”

“Three fifty a month. That’s rent and utilities.”

He nodded, more than reasonable, especially if she was correct about what he got for it. His own room, bathroom, entry and living room? It sounded almost too good to be true. “I’ll get that to you, tonight. Not a problem.”

“You look like hell.” She noted, and he grimaced, pleased when his dinner arrived. A lot of food, and…yes, good.

“Exhausted.” He admitted, tucking into it. “Long ride here.” And he’d been too concerned to sleep. He had been on a Greyhound with every penny he possessed… the best he had managed was a halfhearted doze. “And I didn’t really sleep the night before I called you. You have no idea…”

She snorted at that, “Elias, you’re not telling me anything I haven’t seen before. My cousin left on rumspringa and never came home… drugs. Alcohol. Sharing a crappy little trailer and not paying the bills. It stank. It made my skin crawl… Why leave if you’re just going to screw it up like that?”

He shrugged. Leaving had never been his choice, but he understood that it was for her. Maybe that was why she was handling it so much better…that and the fact that she was a couple of years his elder. He was just weeks shy of eighteen, she was weeks shy of twenty. “Good food here.”

“We’re not far from my school. I eat here when I can.” She didn’t seem like she was willing to dawdle over her food, and he matched pace with her. “We have to catch the last bus.” She said, the edge of an apology under her voice, “And you look like I need to get you home quickly as it is.”  

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Tony
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 19:58:09

    Every bit leaves me wanting more. Can’t ask for much more than that.

    Knowing your previous novels, I can’t help but wonder if there is a crazy twist in this story somewhere. If there is, I can’t wait to find out. If there isn’t, that will kind of be a twist in itself since I’m anticipating one. 🙂

    I’m still really wanting to find out where the storyline in is going to go in Way of the Blessed, but I’m rather read something that the author is inspired to write, rather than obligated.

    Reply

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