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» SACRAMENTO »  » Dream No More

Dream No More

1 15 15


USA, summer 1995

Maria McDunell & Jesus McDunell
Violence is never the answer, until it's the only answer. (c)

[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]

Anthony MacIntyre (2022-07-05 16:35:24)



What a fucking day.
Jesus took a deep breath. He was standing behind the school building, thinking about leaving it for today. He had enough bullshit for one day, thank you. First father's casual morning trash talk, now the school. Fuck it.
The school wasn't completely bad, to be honest. There were nice people - teachers - who actually cared, and the school counsellor suggested taking Jesus into her office on more than one occasion, and he always said no. He didn't trust adults that easily, even if he knew they had no intention of hurting him. Not all of them were like his dad. But not all of them were like his mom, either.
Jesus didn't have many friends at school, if any at all. Most of his classmates were brainwashed by their own parents, who didn't like his parents and as a result didn't like him and Maria, so they were two lonely pariahs throughout school life. Sometimes it was okay. Sometimes other students were really mean. Some days were good for Jesus, others were not. Today was not ideal, for example.
He was, like most of the classmates, 15 - a grown man, one can say. Luckily, a lot of his peers also grew up and lost interest in childish mocking and bullying, preferring to ignore him instead like Jesus never even existed and his desk was empty. Some of them, however, still enjoyed bullying him from time to time, and they were vicious. But so was Jesus.
He could still feel the blood dried under his nose. The assholes were talking shit about his mom and Maria, like they were "shaking asses in front of their customers' faces" or something. Jesus couldn't let them get away with it. They wanted to mock him, that's fine. They could say whatever they wanted about him or his father (in this case he might've actually agreed with some words), but mentioning his mother or sister was too much. Neither mom nor Maria were "shaking" anything. They were two hardworking women, the only people in the house who had actual income, and didn't deserve to be treated with such disrespect.
Jesus wished he was older. If he was at least 17, maybe he would've been able to leave school for good and start working. He would've been able to save some money to buy something nice for mom and especially Maria, his kind sister, so mature already in her age, so tired already, just like mom. Maybe he could've even saved enough money for Maria's college. She was smart, much smarter than him, and she deserved to go to college, because he knew she wanted to. They just couldn't afford it. Because Jesus wasn't 17 yet. Just 15. He couldn't get a job, not yet. Not a legal one, anyway. And Maria stood her ground when it came to talking about other ways of making money, like... what is wrong with dealing drugs? As long as no one was caught... but no, Maria's mind was impossible to change, and Jesus didn't want to betray his sister's trust. She was his only true friend, after all. They learned to look after each other. Because who else would?
This is why it was important for him to silence the jerks. He wished he was stronger, too. If he was big and strong, he would've kicked their asses easily, but no, he was small and brittle, just like Maria, like his mom. He tried to work out and actually acquired some physical strength, but his features were far from intimidating, and eventually it was his ass that was kicked. Jesus felt bitter and ashamed, but told himself it was because there were four of them, not because he was weak. He was not weak, alright. And it was just a nosebleed, anyway. Maybe a couple of bruises, too. No one would be surprised. Mom always had it much worse from dad. It was getting harder and harder to stand by and helplessly watch her suffering, but Maria told him not to interfere, as it would only "make things worse". As if they could get any worse...
Jesus was waiting on their usual meeting spot behind the school building, next to big curly bushes that could hide them easily. It's surprising no one used the place to hide from teachers while smoking. Well, no one but them. Jesus lit a cigarette. Watching his father's experience, he swore he would never touch drugs or alcohol in his life and intended to stay true to his word, but tobacco seemed harmless. He spotted Maria hasting towards him, towards their hideout. They met here everyday during her lunch break.
- Hey, what's up? - Jesus smiled and waved his hand. It was noon, but Maria looked tired already. She wore this ridiculous uniform with the diner's logo on it. "You shouldn't be wearing that shit, Maria", - he thought, biting his lip. - "You should be wearing whatever college girls are wearing, and be there, studying, like, smart things and stuff".
- Want a smoke? - he shook the cigarette pack. - I've got the last one, just for you.
Jesus kept silent for a moment, enjoying it, enjoying his sister's company in this place, away from the world. No crying mom, no shouting dad, no stupid assholes. Just the two of them, cracking jokes about their shitty days, lighting up each other's moods.
- So, the clientele giving you a hard time this morning?
[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]

Anthony MacIntyre (2022-07-05 17:39:46)



[NIC]Maria McDunell[/NIC]
profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light

What a fucking day.

It started way too early. All the usual stuff. Annoying alarm clock going off and ripping her away from the sweet embrace of her dreams. It was something nice too, she thought, even if the vague memory vanished as soon as Maria opened her eyes. After that - well-known routine: fix her face, fix her hair, dress up if this ridiculous uniform and head out. She had asked the manager to give her as many opening shifts as he could - the tips were better, and she was hoping to expand her rather small savings.

Just enough for them to get out as soon as Jesus finishes school. Maria wasnt gonna go anywhere without her baby brother (dont let him hear that she still thought of his as a baby brother - he always tried to look and act older than he really was), no matter how rough things got. She had a responsibility, which their mom entrusted her with when Maria herself was a child - you gotta look after him, she said. You gotta be a good big sister, she said. Maria did her best to keep the promise.

As she went down to the diner, she had a brief moment to enjoy the quiet of the surrounding street. It was barely five am, but the sun was already up and lighting up the world. Maria wanted to stop and stay there for a few minutes, but she knew she had no time to waste - her manager didnt like when people were late.

It was a train wreck on a morning - as soon as Maria stepped through the door she found that they were short-staffed (again) - someone called in sick, and they still had a couple of new girls training, and they were not able to keep up with the rest just yet. Maria had to rush through her usual prep, knowing all too well that shes gonna need to work twice as hard today. No matter, it wasnt an issue. Other girls complained and whined about having to do extra, but not Maria - its not how she was raised. Besides, she had a better reason to be here than just wanting a bit of pocket money.

As the clock struck eleven, things finally stared to die down. Finally. She already felt as if someone had put her through a lemon juicer and the only thing that made her keep going was the fact that her lunch break was soon. She was gonna stop by the school as usual and bring Jesus some sandwiches - it seemed that one of the new cooks had taken a liking to Maria and so gave her some stuff for lunch from time to time. Maria knew that it was probably because he wanted to get under her skirt. Probably. Most likely. But there were very few people around who actually liked her, so she let herself believe for a moment that the guy wanted something more than a pretty doll in his bed. He wasnt bad looking either - some of the other server girls flirted with him from time to time.

Rushing down the street to waste as little time as possible from her lunch break, Maria went straight to a familiar two-storey building of their local high-school. Its been barely a year since she graduated, but that part of her life somehow seemed so far away now. She had to be an adult not.

Whatever that actually meant. She hasnt figured it out yet.

Turning the corner, she saw Jesus waiting for her in their usual spot. A hand wave. A smile - they kept each other going.

- A funny thing to say to the person who actually gets you the cigarettes, - she accepted the offer trying not to say anything about Jesus being way too young to smoke. Theyve had this conversation a few times before, but all was in vain. He wasnt a little boy anymore, and she couldn't control every single thing he did. And, at the end of the day, she was the one who stated smoking first, so partly it was her fault anyway. - Looks like yours are not treating you all too good either, - she pointed at a trace of dried blood under his nose. - Hey, at least they are not trying to grab your ass as you pass by. Right? - their sense of humor wasnt all too good, but what can you do?

You do the best in the circumstances you are in.

Maria opened her bag and got out a paper one with their lunch. Most morning they didnt have time to have a proper breakfast, so she tried to make sure that her brother was at least somewhat fed.

- Here, - she gave him a half. It was ham and cheese. Nothing fancy. - And I snuck out some of those cooking you like too, - she could lose her job because of this, of course. Well, if that happened, she could go work at the general store. They always need people. No tips, though. Harder to save money. - Are you gonna be home tonight? Moms off, I thought Id cook us something, - Maria didnt mention their dad - it was hard to keep track of him coming and going. And even when he didnt have anything in the evening, he preferred to spend his time at a local bar rather than home. - Been a while since we all spent time together.

This was her way of coping - trying to maintain normalcy as much as she could. Things havent been good at home lately, even by their admittedly low standards. Maria knew that her brother wanted to stand up for all of them, she knew he wanted to protect them, but she couldnt bear the thought of him getting hurt as well. And it annoyed him, she knew that too. Fair enough, but still not enough for her to actually let him do anything.

Maybe having some quiet evenings will get them both through it until they can get out.

Get the money. Wait for his graduation. Get out. Her plan was simple, but sticking to it was becoming more and more difficult. And the thought of possibly leaving their mom behind broke her heart too.

- Hey, dont mess up that algebra test you have later, - she said as they were finishing their food. - Or that old crow will peck your eyes out, - that old crow was Miss Linney of course - one of the worst that their high-school had to offer. Perpetually annoyed at having to teach a bunch of rowdy teens, a world-class bitch like to other. No wonder she was fifty-something and never once married. - And dont try to cheat, okay? She wont have it, - having gone through the terrible and soul-crushing experience they called high-school education here, Maria was now trying to give Jesus as much of a heads-up with the worst of them as she could.

Warren Maude (2022-07-08 17:31:30)



Sunlight shone upon Maria's freckles, and Jesus smiled, because she also smiled, and then it oddly occurred to him that they both looked more like their dad rather than mom. Maria had a clear stamp of Irish blood on her face: fair skin, ginger-ish hair and lots of freckles, which made her look sweet and probably younger than she was, because freckles typically are little girls' territory. Jesus's classmates who shared this feature have all started using some sort of cosmetics to hide the tiny spots under thin layers of skin-coloured cream, so you could hardly find a teenage girl with freckles. Maria, however, didn't use the cream, because she couldn't afford extra expenses. Cosmetics wasn't on the list of her necessities.
Jesus had dark hair but didn't look very Mexican, either. He found it sad, because they both didn't have anything in common with their father except for the last name and appearance. He wished more people knew it. All these mothers that forbade their daughters from ever talking to him, like he carried a deadly virus inside of him or something. Yeah, he was Eoin McDunell's son, alright. But he wasn't Eoin McDunell.
He casually shrugged of the mention of blood and got excited when Maria opened her bag.
- Hey, a sandwich! Awesome! - they learnt to celebrate and enjoy simple things. Besides, he was getting hungry. - Mary, you're a star!
The ham and cheese on his tongue tasted like heaven.
- Sounds good, - Jesus enthusiastically nodded, imagining a cozy family evening: mom watching TV series (dad sold their computers, but mom begged him to leave the TV), Maria cooking in the kitchen, and he would help her the best way he can, cut some vegetables maybe. Make some coffee. Hopefully, dad will stay with his friends drinking himself to oblivion, and won't bother them much.
Yes, this was something to look forward to. This would get him through the day, even if he had to go back to school. Speaking of...
- Fuck algebra, - Jesus managed to pronounce, muffled by the ham and cheese he was chewing. - Cheat or not, she hates me anyway. Whatever. - Maria always worried about his grades more than he did, just like she worried about her grades when she herself was a student. Jesus finally swallowed the food. - Uh, Mary... about school and stuff...
He had to present his idea carefully, as he knew Maria wouldn't be too happy about his plan. She wanted a "normal life" for him, but how in hell could his life be normal? How could their lives be normal?
- I was thinking... I have an idea. Look. Fuck school, I have to get a job. We need money, right? - they both spent a lot of time dreaming how they would get away finally, discussing possible places they could move to and things they would do once they leave their abusive household behind. - Don't freak out, sis, nothing illegal. No drugs and stuff. I just, uh... Since I'm not of legal age to get a legal job, I need to... sorta... make my age legal, you know? I've heard of a guy who can make it happen. Like a fake ID. Which will say that I am 18. Then I could work and earn something. Maybe join the diner you're working at? - and smash the heads of all those bastards who dare to grab his sister's ass. - Look, I'm not saying we gotta do it right now, just... give it some thought, okay? And let me know what you think.
They left it at that. Maria's lunch break was frustratingly short, and he still had that damn algebra test to take.

Later in the evening Jesus waited for Maria to finish her shift. He didn't have anything better to do anyway. The test was relatively easy, so he believed he did okay. He was in high spirits overall and was really looking forward to their evening time together. Finally, Maria got out of the staff entrance, now wearing actual clothes, and they headed home together. They talked about the rest of their days, made more stupid jokes, and slowly approached their house. Surprisingly, the lights were on, though mom wasn't supposed to be home quite yet; after finishing her shift, she would normally take laundry to the laundromat next street, as it was Friday. Their own washing machine was long gone. Seemed like today, however, something caused a difference in her schedule.
Maria and Jesus came closer; their faces serious, no sign of giggly chatting anymore, they were both silent and listened hard to whatever was going on behind the door. Their parents voices sounded loud and angry, words unrecognizable from that distance. The siblings exchanged looks and entered.
Mom was standing next to the sofa, as if shielding something lying on it when she heard the door lock open. Dad was standing right next to her, too.
- Hi, darlings, - mom's face was pale, but she did her best to fix its expression. - Why don't you go upstairs? Daddy and I need to talk. And when we're done, we will all have dinner, okay? - she still spoke to them like they were little kids. Well, she was their mother, after all, and for her they probably were little kids. Her lovely little children.
- Yeah, go upstairs, - dad muttered, slurring his words. He was drunk again.
His fucking father ruined everything. Again. Their evening, their plans, their lives. Jesus opened his mouth, but felt Maria's fingers tugging his wrist towards the stairs.
Jesus reluctantly obeyed.
They went upstairs, to the room they still shared, and froze quietly, listening, like little rabbits trying to locate a wolf.
- Dios mio, Eoin! This is crazy! Do you understand this is crazy?
- Eh, shut up, Beatriz! It's my decision and it's done. It's safe, okay?
- Safe? How can it be safe, Eoin?
- It's fucking safe! All my friends have one, it's cool, it's for protection!
- Eoin!
- mom almost screamed at this point. - I don't care what your friends say, I will NOT have A GUN in MY HOUSE!
- This is MY HOUSE! And I decide what I have or not!

They continued arguing. Jesus felt his breath caught in his throat.
- Did she just say "a gun"? - he whispered to Maria, giving her a nervous look.
Things downstairs were heating up.
- Eoin! Put the gun down!
- You see? Do you fucking see it's fucking safe?
- Eoin! Put it down, please!
- No, you have to fucking see for yourself!

There was some commotion.
- Bea, what the fuck!
- Give me the gun! This is not a joke, Eoin!
- Let it fucking go!
- No! I'm taking it from you and taking it back to whoever sold you this crap! We have kids! There will be no gun in the hou...
- I decide what we keep in the house, you stupid bitch!

Mom screamed in pain. They were fighting again... but this time dad has a gun.
- He'll fucking kill her! - Jesus pushed the door with his shoulder and dashed downstairs.

[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]

Anthony MacIntyre (2022-07-06 20:09:51)



It wasnt the first time her brother brought up something like this - Maria knew just how much he wanted their life to be different and how much he wanted to actually do something to make their dreams come true. They used to talk about it a lot more when they were younger - all the places they wanted to see, all the cities they wanted to visit, all the things they wanted to do. Nothing surprising - just a couple of kids trying to find an escape from their abusive household, even if that escape was just imaginary.

Still, she couldnt let him do it.

- Well talk about it later, kay? - she didnt want to start a conversation they didnt have time to finish right now. Maria needed him to understand that she was serious about it. Hed be in big trouble if he got caught with a fake ID. And their dad would go mental. She did not want to explore either of two scenarios.

They said their goodbyes as her lunch break was quickly approaching its end, and Maria headed back to work. Thankfully, the rest of the day was fairly uneventful - their diner was the busiest during the morning and later in the evening, so their afternoon were usually pretty chill. It was nice to have a breather and catch up on some things she wasnt able to do this morning. Maria spent some time chatting with one of the new girls - apparently, she just moved here with her boyfriend.

She wont be so friendly soon, once she hears the rumors about Maria and her family. Typical - thats how it always went. It was like there was a black mark on their family, with no one willing to look past it to see the real deal. And its not like they were the only troubled lot in town, but somehow they managed to hold on to their bad reputations a little too well. Maria knew it was because of her father, of course. He was the root of all of their problems and as long as he was around, they were all considered to be bad news.

Finally, the clock on the wall showed that it was time to go home. She quickly tossed her uniform into her bag - it was time to wash it. She decided not to do it tonight though - she still hoped that they could have a nice family evening, all three of them.

Things seemed to be just normal as the siblings made their way back home. It was a nice enough summer day - sunny, not too hot, a good weather for a walk, so both of them slowed their pace just a bit in an unconscious effort to enjoy it.

As they got closer to the house, both of them quickly realised that something was off.

Maria shot Jesus a quick look, his face more serious than any teenager his age should be able to make. Things inside sounded heated, and Maria had half a thought to get her brother out of there, but he went to the door first and entered before she came up with an excuse for them to leave.

She knew her plan to have a nice evening was over as soon as she heard her mother speak, followed by her fathers slurred words. Great, just great. This is why they cant have nice things. Maria was so tired of this, so done with her fathers shit. When she was younger, she was often scared of him when he was like this, other times he made her hate him with every bit of her being. Why them? Why did it have to be them who ended up with his asshole of a father and husband? Was it some punishment for their sins, payback for the wrongs theyve done? It didnt seem likely.

Without saying a world, she took Jesus by his wrist and pulled him upstairs. She needed to get him out of here. Their room was their safe place. Not because nothing bad ever happened there - plenty of horrible things had happened all over their house - but because it was theirs. There was no sign of the man who was called their father there. No pictures with him - just the two of them with their mom. Nothing that belonged to him. Nothing made by his hands. Not a piece of memory, not a sound, not a smell.

However, even a sanctuary of their room couldnt hide the siblings today.

- Hey, dont listen to this shit, - she said quickly as soon as they entered. Fathers angry and mothers pleading voices were audible here, passing through the walls like a knife through butter. - Wheres that player I got you for your birthday? Put some music on.

Maria could still remember that when they were younger, she would make Jesus cover his ears and hum whenever the fights got particularly bad. She would try to sell it to him as a game - whos gonna be the one who can hum longer? Or louder? This would block the worst of the sounds - fathers angry roars and moms cries of pain as he hit her. But time went on and Jesus got older, so the little kids game wasnt good enough to block out the world around them anymore.

Thats why she used some of her savings last year to get Jesus a music player. She asked him to hide it well - father would take it and sell it if he knew about it. From time to time, she would manage to convince Jesus to listen to music while their parents fought, though it was becoming more and more difficult. Her brother wasnt a little kid anyone and didnt want to hide from their reality.

Before she could say anything else about the music, they heard some words never before spoken in their house.

- I don't care what your friends say, I will NOT have A GUN in MY HOUSE!

- This is MY HOUSE! And I decide what I have or not!

Marias heart skipped a beat. Did she hear that right? This is what it was all about, isnt it?

- Did she just say a gun?

- Yeah, I think so, - Maria nodded slowly. There was no way to hide from what they just heard, and no reason to pretend.

They were now trying to catch every word from downstairs. This was a new development, a bomb dropped on them, which destroyed their familiar state of things. Theyve never had any real weapons in the house, unless you want to count kitchen knives. Maria could feel her heart picking up its pace. For the first time in forever, she was scared.

- Jesus, no, wait! - she let out a yelp as her brother went rushing out of the door. - Dont go! - she tried to catch his arm again, but missed. Her heart was now pounding so fast and hard that she was sure the whole street could hear it. - Jesus, please! - she called after him again, before rushing after.

The scene downstairs was painful to see, though it would be a lie to say that it was the first time Maria had seemed something like this. Mom was on the floor, the man called their father towering over her with a crazy look in his eyes. There was a smear of blood on the womans face from a split lip, and a bruise was quickly forming on her cheekbone.

- Mom! - Marias voice caught in her throat, only a pathetic squeal escaping to be heard. This, however, shifted mans focus on them.

- What are you runts doing here? - he barked angrily at them. - Cant you fucking see the adults are talking? - he started to turn towards them, and Maria instinctively moved to pull Jesus towards herself, but her brother was steady as stone and wasnt moving an inch.

- Jesus, please, lets go, - she squeezed his arm trying to get his attention, a note of despair in her voice. She needed, no, she had to get him out of here right now, before their father decided they were just as good of a punching bag as his wife.

- Yeah, listen to your fucking sister and run like a little baby you are, - laughed the man in response, swaying a bit to the side, before catching himself. He was drunk, he was angry - the worst combination to have.

[NIC]Maria McDunell[/NIC]
profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light



Jesus was racing downstairs, hearing his sister's steps behind him, hearing his own heart beating fast, like a giant drum, almost as if it was trying to glitch in the process and stop. He didn't care. He knew he had to help his mother. He had to finally stand up for them all like a man he was.
Mom's beaten face looked upsetting enough, blood fresh on her lip, but father's words winded him up even more. Of course, the fucker felt no remorse whatsoever. He never did. Jesus's chest was burning inside with the rage slowly burning in him, pure hatred, brighter and brighter with each second, each word that left his father's lips.
Eoin McDunell has never been his father - well, biologically, yes, but that was it. Jesus has never had a proper father figure in his life, a role model he would look up to as a young boy. Other boys at school spent time with their dads in the garage, where they taught their sons how to fix cars, talk to girls, find success in life and all that boy stuff. But Jesus didn't know any of that. Maria served as the only role model he's ever known, and God knows, she has more balls than all the school boys combined. Even if now she was still trying to yank Jesus away, upstairs, to the safety of their room, he knew she was doing it not out of fear but for his sake.
Jesus loved Maria dearly. She's always been there for him, protected him, encouraged and cheered him, taken care of him since he was a little crying baby, she's done so much for him within these fifteen years, and he appreciated it, he did. But he wasn't a crying baby anymore. It was time to show her - and everyone - who he really was.
Father's laughter echoed in Jesus's head, his mind, his very soul. He clenched his fists.
- YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP!!! - his voice thundered through the house, rage spilling out of him uncontrollably, the rage at his father, undoubtedly the source of all evil, the rage at this entire world, so indifferent to the struggles and sufferings of two vulnerable teenagers, the teachers who sneered at them, the schoolmates who bullied them, the adults who despised them. He couldn't take it anymore.
- You ruined it, you fucker, you ruined it all! Mom's life, Mary's life, my life! Your ruined everything!!! - Jesus was screaming, his voice a unique mixture of sounds made by both a child and a young man; it didn't quite break yet, but was lower anyway, definitely not the one he used to have a few years ago. - So now you will shut the FUCK UP and leave Mom alone! Leave us all alone!
Father's face reddened with anger.
- Is this how you're talkin' to your own father, you little scumbag? - he effectively left Mom alone and turned his full attention on Jesus, wielding the gun - a big pistol, terrifying and dark in his hand - in his face. - I'll teach you some fucking manners, you'll see!..
- Eoin, no! - Jesus vaguely acknowledged the sheer terror in his mom's voice. - Dios mio, Eoin! What are you doing?! You're pointing the gun at your own son, Eoin! Put it down! Please!
On the contrary, Jesus wasn't scared. He looked at the gun, his chest moving quickly, breath heavy and rapid, fists still clenched, but didn't move an inch to get away. Maria tried to do it for him, move him away, shield him from danger, which she wouldn't have been able to do now, when Jesus grew a bit higher than she was already. Father detected her attempts, put a free hand on Maria's shoulder and pusher her away with one great shove, causing the girl to trip and stumble and lose her balance. Luckily, she didn't hit anything, but still fell to the floor, making a quiet gasp of pain.
That got Jesus moving. Not in the direction Maria hoped, though. Instead of running away, he jumped right at his father, punched him as hard as he could, not really aiming, not looking where his fists ended up. Father grunted and lunched at Jesus with a force much more brutal than the boy's own. The gun flashed before Jesus's eyes, and for a second he wondered if the was actually going to be shot dead, just like that, by his own dad, but no, the man wasn't shooting; he used the gun to struck Jesus on the head. The blow was hard and sent Jesus staggering into the wall, his temple and eyebrow area on fire. Hot blood ran down his face.
Jesus straightened against the wall, regaining his balance, and father was on him again, punching him the face, breaking his lip, just like he did to mom. The iron taste of blood was in Jesus's mouth, and he was no stranger to the flavour.
- I... will... teach you... - father growled above him, how punching him in the stomach, the blow made Jesus bend with a painful moan. Father used to be big and strong in the days of his youth, and though beer and vodka made him lose a major part of this intimidating features, seemed that anger could still revoke some of the strength back.
- Eoin, I'm begging you! - poor mom was crying again, voice shivering with tears and sobs. - He's just a boy!
She got up to her feet. Life hasn't treated Beatriz well, for sure, and she looked older than she really was. She had to deal with a lot, including providing the best lifestyle she could for her children, all while working two jobs and suffering from regular beatings, and she got used to it now, but like any loving mother she put her children's safety above everything else. She could tolerate a few bruises on her tanned face, but she wasn't going to stand and watch her husband hurting her son.
- Stop it, Eoin! I said stop it! - she was too small to really fight this man, but lashed out at him anyway, like a mad kitten, clawing at his arms. - Stop it, stop it!
- You stop it! Always getting in my way, you bitch! - dad turned to mom, did something with his hand - Jesus couldn't see exactly - and there was a loud boom, a clear shooting sound, deafening, and mom...
...she didn't scream, instead made weird gurgling noises and walked backwards, instinctively pressing both of her hands to the wound. The bullet hit her in the neck, a creepy crimson stream, strong like the water running in the shower, squirted in the air, and in a moment all was red - the floor, the sofa, mom's dress, all covered in blood. She fell on the sofa, fingers quickly weakening, applying less pressure to the wound now, allowing for more blood. It was pulsing in sync with her heartbeat.
Father looked astonished.
- Bea... come on, darling... - he looked at her body as if he couldn't believe it, as if he was expecting her to play a trick on him. Jesus knew it was no trick. He didn't learn much about human anatomy, but the pools of blood didn't look good. Hew realized the very moment mom hit the sofa that she wouldn't make it. She would die.
Because dad killed her.
- You... YOU FUCKING KILLED HER! - he roared, pushing the man in the chest. - YOU KILLED MOM!
- Shut up! She's fine! - dad growled again, turning to face Jesus. - She's just... she's always blaming me, the bitch! It's her fault anyway! She should've stayed the fuck away! She...
Blind rage woke in Jesus again, overwhelming him, possessing him, taking control of his body, of his mind. He was done with it. Done with the garbage of a human being dared to call himself their father.
He dashed forward, grabbed the gun from his hands; father didn't struggle, still too stunned, and Jesus raised the gun, heavy and hot in his teen hands, and pulled the trigger twice.
The sounds hurt his ears, and he didn't expect the blowback. Jesus took a few steps back, staring at his father, who had a bloody hole in his chest and the second one somewhere on his face, which didn't look like a human face anymore. Silent, the man crumbled on the floor with a heavy thud. Jesus was silent as well. He looked at mom's lifeless body, sickly pale, with blood streams not pulsing anymore, and back at dad, who still tried to breathe but seized all movement.
- Holy shit, - Jesus mumbled, eyes wide with adrenaline. He froze, fingers glued to the gun, breath hyperventilating.   

[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]

Anthony MacIntyre (2022-07-11 15:02:01)



Everything happened all at once.

Maria reached out to grab Jesus, to hide him, to get him out of harms way, but instead she felt a punch and something pushing her back as her fathers force collided with her. She couldnt fight against it, so she let herself be carried onwards, away, and onto the cold linoleum floor.

- Please, no - she whispered as her head collided with the hardness of the floor. After that, everything went dark, with the pain spreading from her temple.

Everything was dark for some time, just empty nothingness, like a night without dreams. All was quiet, all was calm, the storm was over. There was something pleasant about being able to escape what was actually happening around her.

A loud gunshot woke her up from that pleasant state.

Maria groaned and tried to move, tried to get up, but she could feel pain pulsating all around her head, spreading out from her right temple. This pain was making the world around spin, leaving everything somewhat hazy and unfocused.

And then Maria heard her mother fall down to the floor.

Their eyes met for a fraction of a second, but it was enough to know what just happened. There was blood on her mothers beautiful face, a final breath slipping from her lips before everything was over. Maria couldnt do anything other than watch as life disappeared from her beautiful eyes. All she could do is stare in shock and confusion.

Maria tried to move once again, but her body felt limp and tired. She managed to roll over onto her back to hide from the sight of her mothers blood spreading on the floor, and to see what was going on, just as another deafening gunshot went off, one more explosion inside the quiet of evenings darkness. Maria pushed herself to sit up, fear clutching at her heart - she was scared that Jesus was about to join their mother. However, instead of that, she saw her brother standing and her father falling down, a pale mask of death spearing across his face.

And just like that, everything was over. The evening was quiet once more.

It felt like a lifetime for Maria, but in reality the whole thing took barely a few seconds. Just a few seconds and both of their parents were now gone.

- No - she finally managed to push herself up, only to take a couple of steps and fall to her knees next to her mother. - No, no, no, please, - Maria touched her soft dark hair. - Mama, please, - Maria could feel hot tears running down her face. She knew it was over, she knew there was no saving her, nothing she could do, but accepting this fact seemed impossible.

How could it be true? How could it be real? This had to be a terrible nightmare, it just had to be one, there was no way something this terrible could happen to them, right?

But the universe was silent to her unspoken questions as Maria kept staring at her mothers face. A few sobs shook her shoulders as she closed her eyes, unable to look any longer.

Finally, she managed to turn and look up at her brother, who was standing there in shock. Maria pushed herself up, closing the space between them fast and throwing her arms around him, hugging him close. She needed a confirmation that he was alive, that his heart was still beating, that she wasnt left all alone in this world. She could feel herself trembling with fear - what was gonna happen to them next? What if police decides that it was Jesus who caused all this? What if they take him away? She was scared for herself too, so she needed to do something, anything really, to fix their situation.

Maria pulled away, catching her brothers face in her hands.

- Listen to me, - she tried to sound serious and confident, but her voice was shaking, and tears were still running down her face. - We need to go, we need to leave, you hear me? Jesus, look at me, - she looked him straight in the eyes. - Go inside the car. No, dont argue, - she cut him off as she knew Jesus was probably going to say something. - Get inside and wait for me, kay? Go, now, Ill be a minute.

She pushed him away towards the front door. Their family car was parked in the driveway. It was old, beat up and barely able to run, but it would get them away from here.

Maria ran upstairs, her mind and heart racing. There was still pain pulsating in her right temple, but she knew she couldnt stop now - they had to leave. Time was of the essence.

She grabbed a backpack and tossed some clothes from their closet for both of them, not really looking at what she was grabbing. There was blood on her blouse, and she was sure that Jesus had some on him as well - they need to change as soon as possible. Ducking under her bed, Maria pulled a small lockbox, where she kept her savings. A few hundred dollars inside - enough for now. They can figure out the rest later.

Grabbing the bag, she ran back downstairs. She couldnt think of anything else valuable to take with her. She didnt stop to lock the door, just closed it behind herself and then slipped into the drivers seat of their car. She didnt say anything, just turned the keys in the ignition. Good thing she knew how to drive.

- Lets get out of here, - she said quietly, but still loud enough for Jesus to hear.

[NIC]Maria McDunell[/NIC]
profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light

Warren Maude (2022-07-16 13:58:12)



"What have I done?"
It was the first thought that entered Jesus's numb, empty mind and ricocheted against his skull bones. What has he done, what the fuck has he done?
"I killed my father", he realized with a sickening mixture of dread and euphoria, "I actually killed my father".
Eoin McDunell's body lied on the floor, still as a piece of concrete, blood painting his dirty T-shirt red. He abandoned his desperate efforts to breathe, chest not moving anymore, eyes locked on the ceiling. His face was a mess, and Jesus felt his stomach turning at the scene. However, he felt no fear or pity. Just pure disgust.
It was entirely different when he looked at mom and Maria, who was kneeling beside mom's tiny figure. Mom looked pretty even now, covered in her own blood, and her face, also still as glass, didn't reflect any fear. Rather, her eyes gave away some sort of sadness, as if she was upset it had to end this way, with her being killed by her own abusive husband, and now she had to leave her children behind, children she dearly loved and cared for the best she could. They were on their own now, Maria and Jesus, young and broke, hopeful and hopeless at the same time.
Strange, but Jesus didn't feel any tears in him, though he was genuinely sad and mourned his mom silently. Probably he was still in shock. His head felt devoid of anything coherent.
Maria woke him from his trance. Jesus stopped staring at the floor and looked in her eyes instead. They were wet with tears, eyelashes sticking to each other, pupils dilated, Maria's entire face was stained with fear and confusion. Jesus wanted to tell her it would be alright, nor because he meant it or something, but because he really wanted this expression gone.
- Leave? - he echoed, and honestly he could understand her desire to get away from this. He had it, too, the urge to distance himself as much as possible, not just from the blood and death, but from everything that happened. As if it was possible to forget by simply running away... - Wait, we're not leaving mom!.. Not like this!
But what choice did they have? Maria acted fast, and that made Jesus move, too, so he didn't argue. He stopped at mom's body, though, and took the final goodbye look. He wanted to grab her hand and tell her how much he loved her. How much he was thankful for that first and only trip to the adventure park she somehow managed to organize for one of his early birthdays, and for the coffee she made for them in the morning before running off to her work shift, and for the lullaby she sometimes sang to him in Spanish when he was a baby, especially when he got sick and acted restless through the night, and for so, so much more that words couldn't describe.
Father didn't deserve a goodbye. Jesus turned his back in the final rebel protest, and only then he suddenly realized he was holding the gun. All this time it was right there in his hand.
Jesus cursed and put the gun gently on the sofa. Somehow he was scared to even slightly touch it again, as if it was a bomb ready to blow up or a venomous snake charging at him any second. He jumped away from it and left their house - their home, broken and fucked up as it is - and got into the car, climbing onto the passenger seat as Maria instructed.
Waiting was unbearable, and the shock was slowly crawling off him, leading the way for thoughts and feelings. Jesus's heart started beating faster. Now what? He killed his father. He took his gun and shot him in cold blood. Murdered, really. He's a murderer. And what's worse, he felt no remorse for his actions.
Because dad deserved it, right? Not for killing mom, not just that; he deserved it for all the years of abuse, for fucking up their childhood, screwing up Maria's dreams of college, screwing up their lives. It was only rational that he finally got what he deserved. How many times did Jesus think about standing up for his family, protecting them, people he loved, from the drunk monster? Jesus never really dreamed of killing him, though. Hurting him - yeah, maybe, punching him in the face a couple of times, but... but it turned out the way it turned out. He killed his father. So... he was supposed to, like, go to the police and all, right? But then... Then what? He would be convicted, receive a jail time, and Maria would be left here all alone. No one will steal her money to buy vodka anymore, that's right, but will she live the life she's hoped for? Instead of saving money for college she will spend it all on cigarettes for Jesus to smoke while he's serving his sentence, alright. This makes no sense. She deserves more than a life of the murderer's sister. In fact, he should drive the car right now, while Maria is inside. He shouldn't get her in his mess. For once, he should act as a responsible adult and deal with his shit himself.
Jesus was a moment away from switching the seats, but Maria came at this very second, carrying some of their stuff, so he didn't move. He patiently waited for her to get in the car and start the engine, then turned away to face the window, biting his lips, as if he didn't have enough blood on them already. And hurt, but it was okay. He could deal with pain. Pain is temporary.
They drove onto the highway. Jesus wasn't sure whether Maria knew where she was going, but for now he didn't care. He just stared at the window, frowning, licking blood from his lips. Twenty minutes or so passed before he finally said:
- I just wanted to protect us, you know. You, me and mom. There was no other way, - and he waited for Maria to confirm it. To say there was, of course, no other way, because he had a gun and who knows how many more people could've suffered by his hand, if not tonight then tomorrow, or any other day. Right, Mary? Right?
[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]



The car was quiet except for an odd clicking noise coming from the engine from time to time - something was definitely wrong with it, but the car was so old that nobody cared to fix it. And it's not like they ever had extra money to waste on this old tin can too.

Maria was clutching the wheel so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. She was focused on the road, but her thoughts were somewhere else, far away from here. They were back in the house, back in the scene on the first floor with two bodies lying there, now cold and dead.

Whats gonna happen to them now? Its not like they ever had any visitors or neighbors nearby to see that something was wrong. Is someone going to realize that the whole family is missing? Is anyone going to come around to check up on them? And whos going to plan their funeral now that their closest relatives were on the run? Maria didnt care about her father - they could do anything they wanted to him, it was her mother she cared about. Maria herself wasnt religious, but faith was important to her mother. Is anyone going to respect her wishes in death? Will she be buried like a proper catholic woman she is?

No, was. Like the woman she was. Used to be. No longer present. She is dead now - the rare present tense that, once it becomes true, stays true forever.

But how could she be dead? Maria could remember everything about her, every little detail - her warm smile, her beautiful face, the way her hugs felt like you were spending an afternoon in the sunlight. The way her hands smelled after she cooked them breakfast, the way she laughed whenever she was happy, which, to be fair, wasnt too often, but it made her laugh even more precious. The way loved her and Jesus. The way she loved her husband, even though he was the last person deserving of her love. The way she never blamed people who gossiped about them, always saying the same thing - forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Just one of the phrases from the Scripture she used almost every single day.

How could she be gone if she was still alive within Marias mind? It felt so cruel to remember her now, to have known her this well. She could feel tears clouding her sight again, but she wiped them away hastily, instead just clutching the steering wheal even tighter.

- I just wanted to protect us, you know. You, me and mom. There was no other way.

Her brothers voice broke her trance-like state, returning her to reality. She almost forgot that he was there too - her thoughts made it impossible to think about anything else but her loss, to remember anything else, even his presence.

Maria wanted to answer, wanted to stay yes, of course there was no way, of course you were just trying to protect us. She wanted to let Jesus know she wasnt blaming him - it was their father who was to blame. He brought the gun to their home, he was the one to pull the trigger on his wife, he was the one who both started and ended the whole thing.

But would any of this happen if Jesus had just listened to her? If they both just stayed in their room like always? Would their mother still be alive if he hadnt decided to get involved?

Maria swallowed her unspoken concern. No, there was no place here for this. No, Jesus was not to blame here. They were kidding themselves thinking that this could have ended any differently. It could have happened later, but Maria was certain - it was her fathers fate to one day kill his wife. She was certain of it deep down for a long time, she knew there was no other way their marriage could end. Beatriz would have never dared to leave him, no matter how much Jesus and Maria begged her. Eoin would have never made an effort to change, to quit drinking, to quit his rage and anger.

Things had been predetermined for their family to end like this long, long time ago.

- Yes, I know, - she finally spoke quietly, praying to the god she didnt believe in for Jesus to not notice her hesitation to answer.

And with that, their conversation was over. She couldnt bring herself to say anything else, instead slipping back into her trance of memories and grief, as they continued down the highway. Maria had no destination in mind, there was nowhere for them to go. She just kept driving to put as much distance between them and their dead parents as possible.

And if one can run away from such a thing.

An hour had passed, maybe two, or even three, still in silence. They didnt even turn the radio on. Maria could feel her head starting to hurt again - it was making it difficult to focus on the road. She was also getting sleepy - night had descended onto the world around them, and considering the fact that she was an early riser, her tiredness was starting to catch up with her now. Normally, she would be asleep at this time already, so it was only natural that her eyes started to close with her mind trying to escape into the wonderful dreamland, where there was no death and no running away.

Their car swerved suddenly, as Maria lost her grip on the wheel, which jerked her awake. For a split second she saw another cars headlight in front of them, but the other driver managed to move out of the way just in time, rewarding Maria with a loud car horn as they passed each other.

- Shit, - she swore, hitting the brakes and letting the car stop on the side of the road. - Shit, shit, shit! - she shook herself awake and hit her palms on the wheel, refusing to believe that she almost collided with another car. She looked back and saw that the other driver didnt stop, so now the road was deserted once again. - Im sorry, - she whispered, turning to Jesus. - Im so sorry, - once again tears started to well up in her eyes, and before she knew it, she was sobbing uncontrollably.

The thought that she just put them into another danger was enough to push her over the edge. She was a mess of emotions - heartbroken, devastated, angry at herself and the world, hopeless and lost when thinking about what they could do now. There was so much pain all at once that it felt impossible to handle. Maria tried to wipe away her tears and calm down for the sake of Jesus - she didnt want him to see her lose it - but it was too late for her now. The dam inside was broken, nothing stopping her pathetic sobs. She was just a human, after all, and could only take so much shit in one day without breaking down completely.

Maria covered her face with her hands, muffing her sobs somewhat, but the tears still wouldnt stop. At this moment, she just wanted to stop existing, disappear, do anything to hide from the pain clutching at her heart.

- Oh, Jesus, what do we do now? - she lowered her hands and looked up at her brother. - How could this be happening to us? - her pretty face was now red and puffy from the tears, contorted with pain. - Why did it have to happen now? - another sob shook her shoulders. - And look at me - I just almost killed us too, almost collided with that car, almost put you in danger again, - she tried to take a couple of deep breaths to calm herself, all in vain. - Jesus, I dont want to believe its all real.

[NIC]Maria McDunell[/NIC]
profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light



New York City was left behind them very quickly. They lived in the outskirts anyway, so it didn't take long to get to the suburbs area. Jesus watched in silence the buildings disappearing as the car drove past them, and finally the scenery in the window showed more trees and fewer houses. He still had no idea where they were going; the highway looked wider than an average road, so he figured it could be something intercity, potentially even interstate. They needed to come up with a plan, not a silly childhood dream about Florida, but a legit plan. They had to choose a destination at least. However, Jesus didn't dare to break the silence, not after Maria's quiet words. "Yes, I know", she said, but something in her voice sounded off to Jesus. Something that made his heart sink. She's not blaming him, is she? He did what he had to do! Hadn't he pulled the trigger, she could've been the next victim! Their father caused all this, he was the source of all evil in this fucking world, he deserved what he had coming!
Why are they running away instead of simply going to the police then?
Well, the answer was also simple: they didn't trust them. Police did nothing to protect them or their mom. Officers frequented the diner mom worked at, drank free coffee she made for their night shifts. They saw the bruises on her face and never questioned it. Not once.
Even if Jesus tells them the truth - that he was protecting Maria and himself at least - they wouldn't think twice before throwing him behind bars for good.
But maybe that would be the right thing, too. Maybe that's the price he has to pay for the freedom. Maria can still live a relatively normal life, free of worries, free of abuse. What else matters, after all?
The deserted highway ahead suddenly lit up with lights so bright it almost blinded Jesus. In a split second he noticed the approaching car's silhouette and opened his mouth to shout "Mary, watch out!", but he was too late - the car caught up with them, barely avoiding the collision, and gave a loud angry signal, disorienting as much as the lights, deafening. Jesus jumped in his seat, the anxiety stirring up in him, all thoughts abandoned. As his breath sped up, their car slowed down to the stop.
- You alright? - was all Jesus managed to say, turning to face Maria. She didn't answer, just swore repeatedly, understandably shaking in panic. Thankfully, no fresh blood on her face, so no injuries. Some portion of luck was still on their side.
- Hey... it's okay, - Jesus touched Maria's shoulder, when she started crying. He felt more scared and confused than before now, because he hadn't seen her cry like this. Maria, his big and strong sister, always knew what to do. Funny, how it feels with parents and older siblings when you're a kid: they seem to know everything, possess every skill, every answer to every possible question. To a little Jesus Maria was like a superhero; she explained to him all these little details about how the world around them works, she kissed away the pain from his scratched knees and elbows, and years after, when Jesus turned into a teenager, he kept thinking of her as a superior human being, someone capable of fixing things. Seeing this courageous young lady in such obvious distress felt wrong, like the end of the world. But it also made him wish to fix things for her.
Back at home, they were not allowed to cry. Jesus learned that from a very young age. Even as a little baby, he was told not to cry, not because he was a man or something, but because he "could disturb daddy, and daddy would be really angry". There was no daddy to worry about anymore, and no mom to tell him not to cry either.   
Jesus felt tears gather in his eyes. He clenched his fists, bit his lip again, sinking teeth in the soft bloody tissue even further, and relied on physical pain for distraction. No, he wasn't allowed to cry anyway, he was supposed to be a man, the man, the only surviving one in their family. A responsible adult.
- Okay, okay, - he swallowed hard to get rid of the bitter lump in his throat, - it's okay. We're okay. We're gonna be fine. Mary, we're gonna be fine, I promise, - no way he could keep promises like that, but he needed to say something to inspire some confidence in Maria. Some clearance about their future. - Look, we, uh, we just need a plan. Like, a small one, for tonight. We're both exhausted. We should... I think we should find a motel and call it a day. We can figure the rest later. It's enough for now. It's been hell of a day.
Jesus opened the glove compartment; of course, it was nearly empty, no lighters, no cigarettes, but the road map was in place. He took it out, unfolded the New York page, found the road they supposedly drove on when they left their neighbourhood.
- We must be, uh... - his finger trailed the twisting lines of intercity highways. He moved the map closer to Maria, so she could see better. - ...somewhere around here, I guess? - he looked out of the window, all in vain: no signs, no clues, just bushy forest surrounding the road. - What a shithole. Is there some road among green area in the middle of nowhere? How did we get this far even?
By mutual efforts they finally located the highway. Judging by the data the map offered, there were not one but a few motels nearby.
- We can get the cheapest one, - which would also be the shittiest one, for sure, but they were not picky, and hey, a broken bed was still a bed, all better than sleeping in the car. Gas station would come in handy, too, if they plan to continue their journey the following day.
[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]



After a bit of time, her breakdown had started to die down. Slowly but surely, Maria managed to regain some semblance of control, forcing herself to breath and to focus on her brothers promises that they were going to be okay. They were empty promises, of course, with no way to actually make them a reality, but it was enough for her. It was like with receiving presents - its the though that actually mattered. It felt good to know that he was on her side.

The whole world can go to shit around them, but at least they were still here. Yeah, they were just a couple of dumb kids, totally lost at what do to next, suddenly on the run, but at lest they were still alive.

- Yeah, you are right, - she nodded slowly, her voice sounded raspy after crying. - We do need a plan. When did you get so smart? - Maria managed a smile and reached out to ruffle her brothers hair.

After studying the map together, they managed to figure out their approximate location - Marias erratic driving left them in the middle of nowhere. Well, at least they had something going for them - New York State was populated enough that the next town was never further than an hour drive away. So they just kept driving on, finally coming across some highway markers.

This time, she opened her window to keep awake - it was a surprisingly chilly night for a summer. The crisp air made her shiver a bit, but it was a welcomed feeling - anything to avoid making a horrible mistake of falling asleep again. Something told Maria that she already used up all of her luck for today. She can warm up once they reach somewhere they can rest.

Finally, after about half an hour of driving, they saw an illuminated sign pointing towards a motel. Maria turned towards it, stifling a yawn - they were both in desperate need of rest. A quick trip to the front desk - luckily, Maria managed to remember that she had blood on her blouse and put a coat over it before leaving the car - and they had a room to stay for the night.

The place wasnt great, but it didnt matter - their room had a couple of extremely squeaky beds, a bathroom with chipped tiles, and an old tv, which refused to turn on. The carpet looked stained with something dark, the color reminded Maria of blood, and she had to suppress a shiver. She wondered if anyone ever died in this room. Honestly, she wouldnt be surprised to find out this place has been a murder scene a couple of times.

- Damn, Im exhausted, - she flopped onto one of the beds, and it made a pathetic squeak. There was an odd sound coming from somewhere up above them, as if someone was punching the wall. - Hey, do you hear that? - for a moment Maria was sure that their upstairs neighbors were having a fight, however a few seconds later, she heard a telltale sounds of some young couple having a good time together. - Oh well, never mind. At least someones having a good night, - she laughed. After all, they were at a crappy, beat-up motel just off the highway, so the local clientele seemed to be appropriate.

Maria didnt notice when she fell asleep. One moment she was having a laugh with Jesus about their frisky neighbors and the next moment she was lost in a pleasant emptiness of rest. Maria was a particularly heavy sleeper - an old habit she developed when she was still young, probably because of the fights that her parents had most of the nights. She always managed to sleep through their shouts and arguments.

She woke up a couple of hours later, when it was still dark outside. The light was off in their room - was it Jesus who turned it off after she fell asleep first? Damn, she really wasnt a good older sister, making him take care of her. Maria turned in her bed to look over at the other one. She saw a calm movement of the blanket up and down with her brothers breathing. Was he really asleep, or just pretending to be so? Deciding not to check, Maria went back to sleep.

There was something nice in her dreams that night.
There was her mothers smile and her laugh.
There was sunshine, there was a sweet scent of something flowery, which reminded her of her mothers perfume.
There was a feeling of peace and safety - something she wasnt all too familiar with, but oh how wonderful it all felt.

When she woke up in the early morning, she was confused by an unknown room around her. For a few moments, Maria was completely oblivious to everything that had happened the night before. For a few wonderful seconds, she didnt remember anything.

And then the memories came flooding in, bringing with them her pain and grief. Maria choked up - she would have given anything and everything for these memories to stay away from her, just for a couple more minutes. She would have given anything to bask in the darkness of not knowing just for a bit longer.

She remembered a line from a book she read in school - the end of man is knowledge. It wasnt until now that she finally understood the meaning.

Jesus was still asleep - she was always the one to wake up first between the two of them. Maria slipped quietly out of their room, throwing a coat over her shoulders and taking a pack of cigarettes with her. She knew it was a bad habit, but smoking always helped her think. And right now it was exactly what she needed to do.

They ended up driving north-west last night, deeper into their state. There was one thing she was sure of - they needed to leave New York. Somehow it seemed that the police might have an easier time locating them within the same state, and Maria didnt want to make it too easy for anyone to find them. No, they had to disappear, though thinking about it seemed easier than actually doing it.

She came back into their room about fifteen minutes later, after crossing the road to get to a gas station they overlooked yesterday. A sleepy attendant there poured her two cups of coffee, not really looking at her face. Good - she didnt want anyone to remember her.

- Morning, - she closed the door behind her, deciding to wake Jesus up. He could sleep more in the car later anyway. - One shitty gas station coffee for you, - she set his cup next to him and went to sit down on her bed. Pulling her cigarettes out again, she stated her second smoke of the morning. - You know what I was thinking? We need to go south. How does Florida sound to you? You know what they say about people from there, I bet we are not gonna be the weirdest people there, so no ones gonna ask us questions.

[NIC]Maria McDunell[/NIC]
profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light



This mess of a day was finally over.
Jesus felt so exhausted he was sure he would fall asleep the second his head touches the pillow. Surprisingly, the sleep didnt come straight away. He was physically worn out, but his mind kept pacing, too anxious to simply slip into the blissful state of unconsciousness. Thoughts clung to him like glue, and tearing them off his mind felt like peeling his own skin off his skull. Thoughts, images and sounds came running through his mind each time he dared to close his eyes. Drops of blood gunshots blood stains of the floor, on their parents clothes, on Marias blouse, blood everywhere
He couldnt take it anymore. He was losing it.
Jesus turned on his side, back to Marias bed, and squeezed his eyes shut so hard he saw lights behind the eyelids. Hot tears started their way down his cheek. He had always tried to grow up so hard, so fast, and now when it actually happened, when one motion turned both siblings into adults responsible for their own lives as there would never be anyone else to take care of them, he felt lost, confused and scared. The events of the day combined with great pressure they threw upon Jesus was too much for him, as he was still just a teenage boy. He cried in complete silence, not whimpering, not sobbing, just letting the tears wet the dirty-white linen. The poor old pillow must have seen things far worse than tears.
People say crying itself is a therapy, and it served as a therapy to Jesus, because once the final salty drop escaped his face, his breath got relaxed and steady and soon he drifted off to sleep as he desperately desired.
Jesuss sleep proved to offer some rest, as nice as it technically can be on a bed solid as concrete. He didnt complain; shitty conditions was his normal life. At least he survived the entire night without nightmares. As a little kid Jesus was prone to having bad dreams, but gradually overtime he learned to sleep deep and heavy enough, so he couldnt remember his dreams in the morning. Or maybe he just grew up.
Marias voice, not sleepy at all, loud and clear hit his vague mind as Jesus opened his eyes, trying to shake off the sleep. At home he liked staying in bed for a few more minutes after the alarm clock rang, not because he wanted more rest but because he surely wasnt looking forward to going downstairs and joining his father in the kitchen. Weird to know this is all history now.
- Hey, - Jesus replied and rubbed his eyes. Nighttime tears dried away hours ago, and his eyelashes stuck to each other, glued together in pairs. The stench of something hot and bitter touched his nostrils, and Maria announced the disgusting brew called itself coffee. Jesus sat on his bed, pushing the blanket aside, took the cup and sniffed it. The smell was horrible, but when he tasted the liquid he somehow enjoyed the flavour. Shitty, of course, but not too bad. Acceptable. Drinkable.
- Florida? For reals? Jesus studied Marias face for a while, as if he seriously considered she was pranking him, and shrugged. I mean, yeah, why not? Beaches, sharks and alligators. Sounds fun to me. Lets go.
He kept drinking his coffee, but his thoughts wandered off. Florida or not, what are their lives going to be now? They had to change names or something. The police must be after them already, so they cant get a job unless they both get a fake ID. No, Marias name is clean He had to keep his sister out of it. If the police get to her, if they arrest her for questioning, they certainly would have to let her go as theres no incriminating evidence against her, right? No fingerprints on the gun. It was all Jesuss. He pulled the trigger, and he had to face consequences.
- Yeah, Florida sounds fun, - he repeated, convincing Maria he was all ready to follow her plan, whatever that meant. Meanwhile, he was constructing his own plan.
Once they set out for Florida, they would have to stop again at some point in Ohio, maybe, or close. Virginia? No way they can cross the whole country in one trip. So at their next stop, wherever its going to happen, they will split. He will take his belongings (theres not much to take, to be honest), some cash, and leave. Leave Maria for good. Set her free of her burden. Let her live the life she deserves.
That said, Jesus got into the car as soon as they finished their coffee and were ready to hit the road. He wanted to savour the last moments he shared with his sister, the person he cherished more than anyone in this world, more than the world itself, because in a way Maria was his whole world. She helped mom to bathe and feed him when he was a baby, changed his clothes, patched up his broken knees and helped him with his homework. She denied herself nice things to afford nice things for him. He has done so, so much, and Jesuss heart was almost exploding out of gentle and grateful love he felt towards Mary. Would he ever be able to thank her enough? Their parting will upset her, he knew that, but he also hoped she will realise overtime that it was his final gift, the most precious one. He hoped she would understand.
They turned on some music while driving, even sang to it together, screaming and laughing like idiots. At that point they looked like typical teenagers, having fun to good music, smiling, enjoying life as it was. Jesus wanted to remember this. He wanted to remember Marias laughter and smile forever, the way wind played with her fire-red hair, the way the freckles on her face stood out like little shiny sparks. He didnt want to remember her swollen wet eyes nor blood-stained blouse. No, not this image, please. He wanted a happy memory, as he was going to nurture it in his heart till the end of his days.
Finally, day changed to evening, darkness fell around them and their music went quiet and they stopped singing to spare their voices. Maria was obviously tired after driving for the whole day, and they stopped when they came across another random motel. Jesus let Maria handle the desk and carried their bags inside.
- Do all motels look the same? he chuckled when Maria opened their room, and they went in. The ceiling had cracks. The window was dirty. The wallpaper was covered in stains Jesus didnt want to think about. Same old picture, as if they were still in New York.
Maria took her shower first, and while she was in the bathroom, Jesus counted his money. He wasnt going to take much, only the part he saved as pocket money. Ridiculously little, but since he was going to leave the car to Maria as well, he didnt have to worry about gas. He would hitch-hike his way to California, and then and then figure out the rest.
It was his turn to take the shower, and the water turned out to be either scalding hot or icy cold, no in-between. Cold water cooled his face in surreally pleasant embrace, but completely froze over his body. Jesus left the bathroom shivering and rushed to climb under the blanket.
I was their final night together, he realized.
- You know I love you, Mary, right? he quietly called his sister. That I would do anything to protect you? Like, literally whatever it takes?
He confused her with this sudden confession, of course, but no explanation could be offered. Jesus closed his eyes and pretended to fall asleep. He almost did, actually, and had to fight off the numbness until he was sure Maria was sleeping, too.
Jesus set upright. In the moonlight Marias chest was moving slowly, showing deep breathes she was making in her sleep. Jesus crept next to her, took his bag and closed the door behind him. It was arguably the hardest decision hes ever done.
Losing his only family to protect his family. How ironic.
And just like that, when morning sun rays hit Marias face, forcing her eyes open, Jesus was gone.
Since he couldnt waste any money, hitchhiking was his only option. Jesus walked the road with his thumb up for a solid hour before an approaching car spotted him and slowed down. He didnt like the driver; the man behind the wheel looked like a classic weirdo out of a horror movie: messy shirt, big glasses that made him look like a dragonfly, hair in disarray, already thinning out in the middle of his head. Old school heavy metal was thundering across the car, Ozzy Osbourne singing about paranoia, witchcraft and other dark stuff. For a second Jesus felt vulnerable; he didnt have anything to defend himself, should the necessity arise. No knife, no gun, and being rather small in complexion, he couldnt rely on his fighting skills either (they never saved him from school guys). But waiting for another car was risky. It might never show up, or might show up too late, and Maria would wake up soon and chase his trail if he doesnt cover it well enough. Jesus had to take whatever option his fate suggested.
The creepy man was heading for Texas, and Jesus complied. He had nothing against Texas. Hed never been there, but he knew the state bordered Mexico, which actually could be a nice hiding spot if he manages to cross the border. Illegally, that is. Considering the amount of migrants coming to the US every year, shouldnt be too hard, eh?

[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]



Bitter coffee burned the roof of her mouth, but it was a welcomed intrusion - it was keeping her awake, reminding her that she needed to keep going, that this wasnt the right place to stop and rest. They still had a long way to go in order to get somewhere safe, to get someplace where no one knew them, where no one cared about who their parents were.

And so, they kept driving, now careful not to get off the main interstate highway and get lost once again. Keeping track of their location, they went south, further and further away from home, until they crossed into Pennsylvania.

It felt like a massive weight had lifted off Marias shoulders as soon as they crossed the border into a different state. That was it, now they were out of New York, and it meant that they were now too far to be found that easily, especially if they keep their heads down, not drawing any unnecessary attention.

A smile spread across her face, the first real, happy smile since everything that had happened yesterday. With their spirits lifted, they even turned on the radio, signing along to almost all songs that came up, even though neither of them was a particularly good signer. Maria was happy to see that Jesus was feeling better too - it was difficult for her to see him this down without any real way of fixing it.

They spent most of the day driving, stopping a couple of times at a gas station to get something to eat. It was almost a joyous day, both of them enjoying this sudden freedom, this change that had turned their lives upside-down, but that also allowed both of them to escape the horrible nightmare that their everyday life has been ever since they were children.

Maria should have known that things were too good to be true. No, they were not this lucky, never have been, never will be. It was almost as if there was a curse on their family - no matter what happened, no matter how much they tried, they always attracted trouble.

She knew something was up with Jesus once they got to their motel that night. Something was different in her brother, but she couldnt quite place it. Any other day she would have bugged him to open up about what was causing him to be upset, to talk to her, but this time everything seemed to be pretty obvious - they had just lost both of their parents, they ran away from home, they were somewhere in the middle of Virginia with no assurances that their plan to get to Florida would work. Maria knew there was just too much that could be affecting Jesus, and she also knew that there was nothing that could be done about it right this moment, so for once in her life, she decided to just let him be.

They will fix everything, in time. They can rebuild and do something good with their lives. Even with all the horrible things that kept knocking her down, Maria was still hopeful. And so, on the verge of falling asleep that night, she just whispered a simple response:

- Yeah, love you too, kid, - it was rare for them to say these words to each other out-loud, even though it felt nice. Maybe they should do it more often. - Dont worry, well protect each other. Thats how families work, - after that, the tiredness of the day caught up with her, and Maria fell soundly asleep.

She knew something was wrong as soon as she woke up the next morning.

- Jesus? - the only answer she got was silence.

Jesus was gone. The room was too quiet.

Maria jumped out of bed, her legs still all tangles up in the blanket, causing her to stumble and almost fall down. She looked around the room, desperately searching for Jesus or any sign of his presence, but it was almost like he was never even there to begin with. His things were gone. He was gone.


Maria rushed out the door, grabbing her stuff on the way out. What the hell was he thinking? What the hell was he trying to achieve by leaving? She wanted to scream, wanted to punch the wall, wanted to shout at the ground and the sky until they told her where her brother went.

- Idiot, that idiot! - she curled her hands into fists, trying to get them to stop shaking. - What the fuck?! - she got into the car, slamming the door too hard. It let out a pathetic squeak. - How the hell am I supposed to find you now?

No response came from the car, of course, as there was no one to respond to her questions. Maria felt her whole body begin to shake, her hands cold as ice and brain going haywire. A million things were running through her mind at the same time, a million things she wanted to do right away to try to change the situation.

It all felt like a horrible, unending nightmare - her mom, then her father, now her brother. Why was everybody leaving her, why did she have to see them all go, one by one? How could she keep going forward herself if there was no one there with her? No one to help her, no one to care for her, no one to support her, to smile at her when she did something good, or to frown when she messed up? What was the point of doing anything at all if everyone she cared about was gone?

Slumping in her seat, Maria swallowed down bitter tears of anger and confusion. Her body still felt numb, her mind unyielding and paralyzed with panic, but she knew she had to do something.

She couldnt do anything when her father killed her mother.
She couldnt do anything when he turned his gun to Jesus.
She couldnt do anything when her fathers actions made Jesus kill him.

She couldnt do anything to save them or to stop them, but she would be damned if she would just let her brother leave, chose a life in which she wasnt there next to him, for better or worse. Even if it took her days, weeks, even months, she made a promise to herself that she would find him.

But how? Deciding to do something and actually doing it were different things. There was no way to tell where he went - the only option was the highway, with trucks passing by back and forth. So he must have hitchhiked with one of the drivers, but did they go north or south? They were right on I-95 now, which ran all the way to Florida, but you can turn off it at any time really, if you were heading a different way.

But trucks had to stop too, right? No driver could go a whole day without a break, even for a short while. Theyve been passing by these truck stops pretty regularly yesterday, and they always seemed packed. Maybe someone saw Jesus on one of them? It was her best bet, really, with no other way to locate or contact him.

Finally finding some resolve in her actions, Maria started the car and got onto the highway, choosing to drive south. Maybe Jesus went north, maybe he decided to go back and face the police - there was no way to be sure, but she had to choose something. Even if the choice was incorrect in the end.

There was a stop about thirty miles south of the motel, so that was Marias fight destination.

[NIC]Maria McDunell[/NIC]
profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light



Jesus had absolutely no idea where they were driving. Not a slightest clue. The only map the siblings could use now belonged solely to Maria; Jesus left it in her car, hoping she would make a better use of it.
Maria What is she doing now? She must be wide awake, freaking out because of his silent disappearance. Jesus imagined his sisters face, wet with tears yet again, and felt a twinge of remorse. He didnt regret his decision, still believing it was better for Maria this way, but He shouldve written a note or something. What if shes blaming herself, thinking she failed him as a sister? None of what happened was Marias fault. Does she even understand why he did it? Does she understand he wants her to have a normal life? To go to college, study something cool and smart, get a degree, get a nicer job than the one she currently had, wiping tables, cleaning coffee mug stains on the plastic surface, smiling to unfriendly customers; Maria belonged to another world, at least Jesus desperately wanted her to do so. He wanted her to work in a proper office with good air conditioning, greater wage, welcoming colleagues and all that.
But will Maria start her life as Jesus hoped she would? He knew his sister; she wouldnt simply drive back to New York, no way, she had to search for him first. And only then, when he cant find him, she will return. Or maybe she will still drive to Florida, because theres nothing really keeping her in New York City anymore. Florida has a lot to offer, though: cheaper rent, luxurious beach resorts, various job offers, young people arriving to swim in the gentle warm waters every summer. She will surely make new friends there. Maybe even meet someone. Start a family and have her own kids. Jesus knew for a fact Maria would be a wonderful mother.
But for all of this to come true he has to make sure she cant locate him.
Roads intertwined into a dusty spiderweb; scenery behind the window was rapidly changing, and Jesus himself couldnt place his exact location. They didnt meet any other cars on the way, and Jesus didnt like it, even though the driver wasnt giving him any reason for suspicion. The man was quiet, mostly focused on the road, and even suggested tuning down the music if it seemed too loud. His car wasnt really creepy anymore, just weird, because it strongly smelled of weed. Reeking, to be specific. Crumpled burger wraps were scattered across the floor. Empty bottles not alcohol, thanks God, but soda were cheerfully hopping on the backseat each time the car stumbled on a twisted road turn. Jesus made peace with his surroundings. Wraps and bottles never hurt anyone. He was trying to make sense of the highway they wheeled on.
The driver gave his passenger a suspicious look. He could see the boy was nervous, constantly looking back and forth, shuffling in his seat, glued to the window.
- You alright, kid? the man asked, as if the oddity of the situation just dawned on him. He picked up a lonely kid, clearly underage, all on his own, hitchhiking God knows where, without a specific destination request. Something was off here.
- Uh, yeah. Yes, sir, - Jesus replied innocently, but anxiously shifted in his seat again.
- You sure? Youre not in trouble, eh? the man couldnt let it go. He didnt care for the kid in the slightest, but he certainly needed no trouble for himself.
- Of course not! Jesus quickly reacted, turning to face the driver. I-Im just, uh school holidays. Taking a break, you know. Nothing special.
- Nothing special - the man echoed, watching the road. He took another turn and casted a sideway glance at Jesuss face. You want to explain your face?
His face, of course. The beating he took from his father left its marks, and while Jesus thoroughly cleaned all cuts and bruises with water, a couple of days was still too little to let the broken lip fully heal. He didnt look as atrocious as he did on the first day, but not enough to avoid logical questions.
- Nothing special, - Jesus repeated like a stubborn broken record. I had an argument with one of my friends. It happens. It was nothing. Were cool now.
He was in no mood for a conversation. Well, maybe he could use a distraction from his thoughts, but Jesus would prefer it to be a casual talk about cars and roads. He didnt feel enough energy in him to make up a believable story on the spot.
- Yeah, alright, - the man seemed satisfied with the answer. His lips even twitched in a motion vaguely resembling a smile. But the conversation was far from over. Girl trouble, eh? Thats what your argument was about?
- Yeah, - Jesus enthusiastically agreed, and the man smiled again, content with his perceptive vision.
- Yeah, that happens, - he nodded, - happens all the time with us boys. She love you? That girl?
From that moment on Jesus just gave up. He had to invent a non-existent girl named Mia, who apparently was supposed to be his classmate, and the fight he had with his non-existent friend Kevin because they both were supposed to love Mia and couldnt decide who was the chosen one to invite the girl on a date. Perfect crap, but the man was listening with great interest, entertained by the problems of youth. Maybe this fiction stirred up recollections from his own past there mustve been days when the man was a teenage boy, too. Maybe he was glad to think that even generations after generations, problems were the same, and it gave him an illusion of the worlds stability. Whatever it was, Jesus finally pretended to fall asleep, and the man let him be. His trick soon became reality when tiredness got the better of him.
The driver woke him up. Jesus sat up, looking at the window. The landscape was unfamiliar to him; not many trees, mostly bushes and desert-like soil, dust and wind all around.
- Are we in Texas? he asked, puzzled. That made the man laugh.
- Not so fast, kid. No, were not in Texas yet, but were on the way. Its a long way, and I need a break. Look, - he gestured, pointing directions with his index finger, - heres a motel if you wanna sleep. A café if youre hungry, cause I sure am. But if you want to keep going, theres a bunch of my pals, someone must be going to Texas. Ask around.
Of course, Jesus wanted to keep going. They wished each other good luck, and Jesus, though he was starving and craved for a bed instead of a car seat, headed straight for the men drinking soda behind a rocky table. Some of them indeed were on their way to Texas, and Jesus managed to join a bulky guy, who didnt look friendly at all, but at least his face expression promised a few hours of silence. Jesus gratefully climbed into the seat and closed his eyes, trying not to think about the smells creeping into the truck from the café, smells of burger meat and sauces, and fresh vegetables, and fried eggs, and sliced cheese, and bacon toasts His stomach gurgled, and the driver glanced away from the road, the same suspicious look.
- Youre not gonna starve to death on me, kid? If youre hungry, youd better go back and help yourself.
- No-no, Im good, - Jesus reassured the man, scared he would kick him out if he suspects the boy might give him trouble. Scouts honor. No starving to death, sir.
- Yeah, okay, - the driver nodded and continued driving. He was much older than Jesus, but younger than the previous man young enough to remember his scout days. Youre not in trouble, though?
Everyones asking the same damn question! How annoying!
Luckily, this time Jesus managed to convince the man he was in no trouble faster. He gave another promise, and the driver just nodded, obviously not intrigued, not wanting to know why a teenage boy would hitchhike all the way to another state all alone. Jesus relaxed and let himself sleep some more.
Which turned out to be a grave mistake. Because when Jesus got out at the next stop and got himself yet another ride, he suddenly realized his money was gone. All of it.
He didnt have much to begin with, what he needed it to survive. Screw the motels, he could sleep outside just fine, the weather was sunny and warm, but he had to eat and drink something! He has spent so much time without any food already it made his head dizzy. A few more trips like this, and he would collapse before he reaches Texas, let alone the Mexico border. Who on earth would take a teenage boys money?! Jesus wouldve felt rage, but in fact he was so hungry and tired that he only thing he felt was desperation. How much time has passed since he left Maria? Hours? Days? It was almost hard to tell. No, not days not yet. He was okay. He could take some more.
He got into another car. Drove another distance. It became a cycle: get in, drive, get out, repeat. Peoples faces merged into a faceless unrecognizable blur. He couldnt remember city names or follow the track. He hardly understood which state he was in. If the police caught him right now, they would treat him a mentally ill, which he wasnt. He was just tired and awfully hungry. Surprising, how little the world cared about a pale, all covered in road dust teenager, watching visitors eating burgers with mad eyes. Surprising to anyone else, but not to Jesus. He knew the world didnt give a damn. And now, when he was alone, no one did.

[NIC]Jesus McDunell[/NIC][STA]you made a monster of me[/STA][AVA]https://i.imgur.com/wMFYoTi.gif[/AVA][SGN]You made a monster of me...
Forever tortured by you, abandoned at death door
Until I say no more (c)

profession: school student; fugitive
my only family: Maria[/LZ1]



Once Maria got to the first truck stop, she went straight to asking around. There were a few truckers here taking a break from drivers, but Maria soon learned that all of them spend the whole night driving and only got to the rest stop barely half an hour before her. None of them picked anyone up or saw anyone picking someone up.

Well, she knew she would need to try harder than that - it would have been unbelievably lucky to hit the right place on her first try. She had to keep going, fighting the same thought that kept popping up in her brain.

What if shes never gonna find him? What if Jesus was gone for good? What if no matter how hard she tried, she never manages to find this little idiot who decided to run away?

A part of her was getting mad at her brother. It was so unfair to make this decision for both of them, not asking beforehand, not even brining it up. She knew why he never did - Jesus must have known that she would have never agreed for them to split. No way in hell. And it wasnt just an overprotective older sister talking, it was her common sense coming up to the surface. It was dangerous to travel like this. Even Maria was taking a massive risk, and she had a car.

Getting into a car with a complete stranger was reckless, dangerous. What if someone decided to hurt him? A fight at school with another rowdy teenager was one right, but to get into a physical altercation with an adult and, most likely, a man, was a completely different story. Jesus could hold his own for a bit for sure, but any of these drivers would be taller, older, heavier than him. Stronger than him.

No matter how much her brother wanted to be an adult, he was still a teenager.

And now Maria had to go from one place to another searching for him, and with her being a pretty girl, she was doomed to find some trouble at one of these stops. Having to fight off handsy men was not a new thing - they had some rude customers at the diner, who always tried to drab her or some other girl by the ass. Some girls were into it too, which only encouraged them. Maria wasnt though, and she always made it abundantly clear. Still, most of them couldnt take no for an answer.

She stopped again in a coupe of hours. Same thing - no one picked up a kid this morning. Maria caught a couple of hungry gases.

Next one - same thing. One of the drivers asked if she would prefer resting with him for a night. Maria had to fight off a sudden urge to throw up.

It was the next stop that finally gave her something. Shed been driving all day and the sun was beginning to set. Her shoulders and neck were tired from being crammed into a drivers seat for a third day straight, but stopping wasnt an option. If she stopped now, the trail could run cold.

- A kid? - one of the drivers asked again.

- Yeah, bout this tall, dark hair. And he had a split lip, - the same description she gave every time. It would be hard to miss a teenager here, so she hoped it was enough.

- I think Ronnie said somethin bout a kiddo, - the man had a strong southern accent. - Yo, Ronnie! - he called the other guy over. - Didnt you pick someone up?

- Yeah, some teenager, - the other driver walked over to them. - Why? Whos asking?

- Me, - said Maria. - Im his sister. He ran away from home.

- Well, he said something bout girl trouble, - the man shrugged. - Eh, if thats your brother, just give him a couple of weeks, hell some back.

Girl trouble? That was new. Was it some other guy, or maybe Jesus had to come up with a story? Its not like he could say what really happened.

- Where did you pick him up? What did he look like? - she had to confirm she wasnt following a wrong lead. Marias heart was beating so hard in her chest that she was sure that these guys could hear it.

- Like a normal kid. Had a split lip, though, - Marias heart skipped a beat. - Said he had a fight at school because of some girl. Picked him up this morning on I-95. Sounds like your brother?

- Yeah, it does, - the girl story was not a match, but the location and his appearance was. - Did he say his name?

- Nah, and I didnt ask. He got off here with me, but said hes gonna keep going. Probably left with one of the other guys already.

- Where did he say he was heading? - Maria knew - this was it. She caught the trail, and now that she had it, she wasnt gonna let go.

- Texas, dont know where, though.

That wasnt great - Texas is big and very sparsely populated. Easy to hide, hard to be found. Even better than Florida, really, Maria should have thought about it herself. She also knew that Texas had plenty of farmland, where they were always looking for help on one of the ranches. Might be a good way to make some quick money, but also a good opportunity to lie low. These folks didnt tend to ask too many questions.

- Thank you so much, I think that might actually be him, - she said quickly before jumping into the car once again. Maybe she was making a terrible mistake, maybe this was some massive coincidence, but every minute that she was spending contemplating it was a minute she was losing on catching up with Jesus.

Eventually, Maria had to stop, though. Now that she was alone, she didnt care much for finding a motel - she just turned off the main road and slept in the backseat of the car. It looked like she had a long want to go, and she needed to save money any way she could.

That night turned into a next day. That day turned into night again, which, once again, brought the night. Maria knew she was moving slower than Jesus, because she was pausing at every truck stop to ask around. But then, the truckers were not the only people with cars - there was a chance that Jesus was hitchhiking with just some people going the right way.

As she kept driving south, the landscape was changing rapidly. It was kinda crazy to see how many different places existed within one country, since Maria never really travelled anywhere before. The closest thing they ever did to traveling as a family were rare trips on the ferry to Staten Island. Thats it. No family vacations, no visiting relatives out of state. Maria went on a couple of school trips upstate, but that could hardly be considered traveling.

It felt bitter to be seeing all these new things and places without Jesus by her side. This was supposed ti be their future, once he graduated from high school and once they had enough savings to leave their fathers house. They were supposed to do all this together - build a new life, see new places, look outside the car window as states changed one by one. Having to do this all by herself felt empty and meaningless. Whats the point? Its not like she was a fan of sightseeing, as if shed never seen other places in photos and on TV.

On the third day since Jesus left, Maria reached Mississippi. The air was hot, and she felt sweat dripping down her back. She knew she had to stop at a motel tonight - the last two nights of sleeping in the car left her with a sore back and stiff shoulders, so she stopped at a place outside of Jackson.

She had one more day to go until Texas. Out of all the places she visited, only two of them proved to be useful. The first one was a rest stop some place in West Virginia, where the locals said that they saw a teenager traveling with one of the drivers, though they never got to talk to him. Second - a service station outside of Knoxville, where one of the guys said his buddy gave some kid a lift and that the kid was heading down to Texas. Was it still Jesus? There was no way to tell.

Taking a shower felt so wonderful that Maria never wanted to leave. Once she was done, she stepped outside for a smoke, and thats when she overheard some voices.

- Cmon, doll, dont be like that, - said a mans voice, clearly under the influence. - Youve got such a pretty smile, why dont you want to come with us?

Maria walked towards the voices and turned the corner - there was a girl her age with a coupe of guys in front of her, blocking her path. They loomed over like dark shadows. One of them was reaching to grab her arm.

- Please, I need to go, - the girl was staying, her voice clearly distressed.

- Oh, there you are! - Maria said loudly, quickly closing the distance between them. - Ive been looking all over for you.

She grabbed the girl by the arm and started leading her away, whispering to her:

- I take it you dont know them? - the girl shook her head and whispered a quick thank you. - Dont worry, come into my room until they leave.

And thats how Maria met a new travel companion. The girls name was Katie, she was trying to get from Atlanta to her uncles ranch not too far from Austin, also hitchhiking to save money. Instead of sending her on her way, Maria offered to give her a lift the next day, since she was heading to Texas anyway.

- Why are you going there? - Katie asked as they were getting into the car the next morning.

- My idiot of a little brother ran away from home, - that was the story she was telling everyone, to avoid the questions. It was much easier to say that rather than explaining that they ran away together first, and then he decided to leave her.

- You two must be close if you are going after him, - it was nice to finally have someone to talk to after being almost completely silent for a few days now. - And he went to Texas?

- I think so, yeah, - Maria sighed. - Its my best guess.

Maria never had any real friends, not really, since she was always judged because of her father. But Katie knew nothing about her past and thus had no reservations about her, and Maria found herself enjoying the company. They drove all through the day, with Katie insisting on paying for gas once they stopped to fill at a station. If nothing, this was good to save money.

- Well, this is Texas, - her new friend said as soon as they crossed the border into the state. - What now?

- Honestly No clue. I have to assume he made it here, but what next? Where would he go?

- Well, I can help you ask around if youd like, - offered the girl.

- Why? - it was odd to hear such an offer.

- Payback? You helped me a lot yesterday. And actually, I also have a brother, but hes the older one. He never looked out for me, though, always too busy chasing girls and partying with his friends, - Katie looked upset as she talked about him. - Maybe I wish he was as good of an older sibling to me as you are to your brother. So, how about we stop by that place, - she pointed at a rest stop in the distance - and ask around? Ive been there with my parents before whenever we went to visit my uncle. Lots of people stop there, maybe they know something.

profession: the prettiest server at a diner;
lil bro: Jesus[/LZ1]
And these violent delights
Keep bleeding into the light


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