Seth had waited years for this moment to come.
Now, finally, he was able to break the ties that held him in the depressing two up two down house that had been his home since he had been born. With his brother's death, the last link had been cut. He could leave. His fingers hooked around the handle of the small Ford KA that had been his for the last three years and he yanked the door open.
Seth only glanced at the house one more time before throwing his backpack over to the passenger seat and sliding in. The keys slid easily into the ignition and he turned it, one hand tightly gripping the steering wheel as he pulled out of the driveway and moved the car, and himself, away from the house.
His heart beat wildly in his chest; part of him was scared that someone, his mother perhaps, or even his uncle, would come running from the house, would stop the car and drag him out, drag him back to that small, semi-detached prison.
He managed to get around the corner with no one chasing him. Seth didn't realise he'd been holding his breath, but now it floated out of him. Relief flooded his body as he relaxed into the car seat, fingers quickly pressing play on the CD player, the angry punk rock drifting out of the speakers and filling the car.
His fingers drummed against the wheel, Seth's smile growing bigger as he got further and further away from the house.
Finally, he really was free.
Seth drove carefully; it would be way too ironic for him to crash now, for him to be propelled through the front window and smash his head against the pavement, for him to die now that this sweet, precious moment had come. He wasn't going to take any chances with fate.
He didn't even know where he was going. All he knew was he was going to keep driving until exhaustion took over, until he was far enough away from the house and then, then he'd decide on the next step.
He'd been driving for over an hour when he spotted her.
Slowing down, Seth pressed the button that would bring the window down.
She was walking on the side of the road, bag slung over her back, the same bag he'd watched bob up and down the corridors at school, the same bag he'd seen thrown casually under the desks in lessons. As he drew closer, she inched away from the road, not glancing towards him.
"Hey! Cami!" he called, coming to a stop as froze, her head snapping around to stare at the car, blonde hair whipping around her pale face.
"Oh. Seth. The hell do you want?"
"Bit far from town," he mumbled. "Want a lift to...wherever?" he chuckled, leaning out of the window as she crossed her arms.
"No. I'm fine." A pause, before she sighed. "Where you heading?"
"Not sure. You?"
"No idea." A sly grin stretched across her face, and he marvelled at how it just served to make her prettier. "You running away too?"
"Sort of," he mumbled, shrugging as he did so. He'd never really spoken to Cami; Seth wasn't the type of guy who could just go up to a girl and strike up a conversation. All he'd ever really done was admire her from afar; he'd admired her prettiness, he'd admired her rebellious streak as she glared at teachers and came up with her own answers to the questions they asked. Seth could never resist a small smile to himself when Cami spat out remarks at the prissy, up their own arses kind of girls at their school. He'd silently cheered her on when she'd punched one of the guys for slapping her arse at lunch in Year Eleven.
"I just wanted to get out of that hell hole of a town," she told him, running a hand through her bob of blonde hair. "Actually...seeing as neither of us have an exact destination..."
"You want to jump in?" he offered, leaning across and unlocking the passenger door. As he brought his hand back, he grabbed his backpack and threw it onto the back seat. "Plenty of room, Cami."
She laughed, a small grin on her face as she shrugged and darted to the passenger side of the car, pulling the door open and sliding easily in. She wriggled slightly, making herself comfortable before pulling the seatbelt down and hooking it in, eyes darting to Seth.
"Is this seriously Billy Talent?"
"Yeah," he chuckled, pulling off once more. "Why? You like them?"
He smiled at her; reaching over her lap and clicking open the glove compartment. "Got a few more CDs in there if you wanna check them out."
Her hands delicately reached in, pulling out the small CD holder and starting to flick through. As he drove, as she looked through his music collection, he couldn't help but glance slyly at her legs. She was wearing a skirt, denim, about halfway down to her knees. Underneath that, her legs were covered by black leggings, the material pulled tightly over her thin legs. He wondered if she played any sports; he'd caught brief glimpses of her in P.E lessons, running across the netball court, leaping up into the air and deftly grabbing the ball as it came her way.
The classes had once done boys vs. girls softball lesson, and he'd been fielding when she came up to bat. Seth had been placed on the second base, and he'd watched as she'd smacked the ball so hard it went out of sight. She'd been fast, very fast, and was tapping his base with her foot before he even realised what was happening.
He still remembered the sly wink she'd given him as she sprinted past.
Now, Cami was sitting in his car, one leg moving up and down, her head bobbing in time to the music.
"What about this?" she asked, opening the CD case to show him Alkaline Trio's This Addiction.
"Sure." He nodded, head tilting towards the player. "Stick it in."
"Awesome," She grinned, pressed eject and held the Billy Talent album carefully in her hand, sliding in the other CD and pressing play. The music once more filled the car as she casually flicked through the CDs, sliding the album in. "You've got these arranged alphabetically, haven't you?"
He felt himself blushing. Heat fled into his cheeks and he kept his eyes focused purely on the road. "Yeah," he mumbled, careful as he took a right-turn. "I just got bored, one day, I guess."
"I like it," she replied, flicking through the rest of the silver discs. "Some things should be alphabetical. I mean, if it was just random, how the hell would you find your Smiths CDs when you were craving There Is A Light?"
"Good point," he chuckled, glancing once more at her. "So, what's your favourite band then?"
"I don't know," she sighed. "The Smiths is a generic favourite band. I love Alkaline Trio but wouldn't say I loved them above all others. If I say Tsunami Bomb it makes me sound like a feminist or something."
He raised an eyebrow, returning his attention back to the deserted road. "You sound like you care too much about what other people think."
"You really think that?" she asked, a soft sigh escaping her lips.
"Not really. You don't strike me as the kind of person who gives a crap, to be honest."
"I like to think I don't." She paused, tilting her head to the right, towards him, her eyes fixed on the road ahead of them as she slipped the case back into the glove compartment. "But...I think I care what people think of me when...when I want them to have this certain idea of me, you know? Like, in school..."
"You really didn't seem to give a crap then," he laughed, remembering the poor fool who'd slapped her arse.
"Well..." she sighed. "I don't know, Seth. I always wanted people to think I didn't care but...I cared. In a weird way, I projected the part of me I wanted them to see, instead of..." she paused, her head falling forward as she stared at her lap. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" he asked, now slightly confused.
"I don't know. Bombarding you with all this? For never talking to you in school? I regret a lot of things, Seth. I regret being so stupid in school, for acting like I didn't care...you know, I don't have any friends from school?"
He half-shrugged. "Neither do I."
"What about Billy? And Jim? I thought you three were pretty tight."
"We were, back then," he chuckled. "They went to University. We barely speak any more. It's been a long time."
"Yeah, that's true."
Cami stretched her legs in front of her, her toes reaching out until they could go no further. She sighed, leant her head back and against the headrest, and stared up at the ceiling of the car, her fingers tapping out the beat to the song on her knee.
"So why are you running?" she asked, eyes still fixed upwards.
"I needed to get away from my mum," he replied. "It got a bit...suffocating. You?"
"Just got fed up," she mumbled. "You know my mum is hardly ever at home? And my dad beats himself up so much over not being able to find a job..." She let out another sigh. "It gets to you, after a while. I couldn't stand it anymore." She paused, eyes darting down to the CD player, then snapping over to the glove compartment. "I heard about your brother. I'm sorry."
"Yeah," he scoffed. "Well, not your fault, is it? That's all I've heard since he died. I'm sorry. Sorry is a pointless word, you know?" He fell silent as they came to a red light. The traffic lights flashed, winking at them as they switched to amber, then green. "Like...I don't know. No one could do anything, I guess. It happens. And he fought, bloody hard too. It was...better that he died. He suffered too much."
"How old was he?"
"Twelve," he shuddered. "Jesus. He was twelve freaking years old. Not even a teenager. And he was just so...innocent, too. Not like half the kids you see running around, swearing, smoking, all that shit. He just...wasn't like that. He was sweet, you know?"
She studied him carefully, knowing he wasn't really looking for sympathy. He was looking for the same as her; someone to talk to, someone to unload their problems on because, on your own, it just got way too much.
"You really loved him, huh?"
"Yeah," he nodded slowly, a smile tugging the corners of his lips upwards. "Yeah, I did."
"That's all anyone could have asked for," she muttered, head dropping forward, fingers twitching in her lap. "Just...to be loved. I bet he had a great life, with you."
He scoffed. "If it was just me, then yeah, maybe he could have a good life..."
"Seth," she took a deep breath, "I, obviously, don't know why you're running away but...but whatever happened to you, or your brother, you loved him, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters."
He blinked slowly, silence falling over them as he drove on. "Maybe." Finally, he spoke, as the CD whirled onto the last track and she started looking through the case for the next one.
"The Living End?" she offered, and he nodded.
"Actually...yeah, maybe you're right. All you need is love, right?"
"You want to stop, something to eat?" He nodded his head towards the sign as they passed, the large one urging drivers to take a break, followed by the distance to the nearest service station.
He smiled gently, pulling towards the left to draw them closer to the service stations. His stomach rumbled, and he suddenly found himself craving a Big Mac, or maybe a McChicken Sandwich. Mentally, he went through the usual sort of places you found at the service stations – McDonalds, or Burger King, maybe even a KFC. A WHSmiths, though at this time, he thought it'd be closed. Either that or a Marks & Spencer. Toilets. Toilets were a certainty and for that he was grateful. Some sort of coffee place where he could buy a hot drink.
His mind wondered as they pulled in, eyes scanning the giant, lit up board that listed the shops to be found inside. He flashed Cami a smile as she opened her door and swung her legs out, a yawn escaping her lips as the cold wind hit them inside the car.
"Seth?" she muttered, half turning towards him as he turned the engine off and rubbed his face, trying to fight away tiredness.
"Yeah?" he replied, opening his own door.
She leant across and kissed his cheek before darting out of the car. "Thanks. I needed someone to talk to."
"No problem," he whispered, leaning back in the car and letting his eyes half close.
"Maybe you'll see Robbie, somewhere along the way?" she spoke quickly, rapidly, and he nodded slowly, remembering the way she'd looked, two days ago now, when he found her crumpled body at the side of the road, hit by a careless drunk driver who'd disappeared into the night. The contents of her bag had been spilled along the pavement; her journal, an Alkaline Trio CD, as well as White Noise by The Living End.
She'd been running away. What from, he'd never know.
His eyes slowly opened, darting around the almost-empty car park, devoid of all life except him. Slowly, he climbed out of the car and locked it, glancing around as he pulled his hood up over his head.
I needed someone to talk to.
"Yeah," he whispered, as he slid his keys into his pocket and started walking towards the brightly lit building. "Yeah, so did I."