Chapter 5

I tried to act as if I was messing with my stuff (resisting the urge to turn on my phone) while the others used the bathroom. McPhee came out wrapped in nothing but a towel and he let it drop to the floor before he slipped under the covers of the bed naked. I tried not to blush as I looked away. I'm not a prude but the last thing I needed to see was McPhee's bare bottom and a hint of his privates.

Holly was next and she pretty much did the same thing – coming out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel which she loosened and purposely tossed aside. I know she did it just to get Cameron's attention and she was giggling as she joined McPhee under the sheets. I couldn't believe they were getting naked in front of us.

Cameron used the bathroom and he came out in boxer shorts and a tee shirt and that left only me. I was nervous and even frightened as I got ready for bed in the bathroom – putting on my pajamas like I was at some sleep over instead of what apparently the others were expecting out there. Cameron had never violated my space before but we were sharing a bed on this night and he was in his boxers so maybe he was thinking something more might happen.

I could tell Cameron was disappointed when I came out of the bathroom in my pajamas – long sleeved and long pants, nothing sexy or attractive. I even kept my panties and bra on underneath for added protection. Even though I often joke about getting naked in front of my family just to see if they'd notice there was no way I was getting naked in this hotel room.

I would never surrender my virtues in a hotel room with McPhee and Holly in the next bed. That wasn't my idea of romance or love. It would just be sex.

McPhee leaped out of bed naked and killed the overhead light, leaving the room in darkness. I could see the white of his ghost returning to the bed and once again Holly was giggling. Now that I had seen McPhee naked I knew I never wanted to see any of these people again.

I tentatively slipped into the bed next to Cameron, keeping my back to him. He wrapped his arms around my waist and moved his mouth close to my ear.

"This is not how I pictured things going tonight," he said softly.

"I don't know what you mean," I replied, barely in a whisper.

"Pajamas, Joanna? Seriously?"

I felt his lips on my cheek and I tried to move my head away.

"What's wrong?" He asked.

"Nothing," I lied.

Cameron sighed. "Don't you want to….?"

I cringed. I did not want to hear what I knew he was going to ask as he pressed himself against me.

"Just tell me what you want," he said into the back of my head.

"It's just that I'm really tired," I said.

"Oh, bullshit," he grumbled.

Now I was really nervous and uncomfortable. I was rejecting a boy who was lying in bed next to me.

"Do you want to keep your hands warm?" He asked.

"What?" I asked with confusion.

"I have a place you can put your hands to keep them warm," he said.

"That's okay," I replied, trying not to reveal my disgust.

"Damn you, Joanna," Cameron growled. "What the hell did you come for if you didn't want to do this?" He demanded.

I shrugged my shoulders. "I was running away from home," I confessed.

"What?" He asked with disbelief.

"I was mad at my parents for not paying attention to me so I skipped out on my brother's family graduation party and ran off with you guys," I explained. "Nobody knows where I am. I didn't tell anybody I was leaving."

"Well, that's just great," Cameron complained. "What am I supposed to do with you now?"

"Let's just go to sleep," I suggested.

I felt his face close to mine. I kept my eyes closed, fearing maybe he was going to do something mean or inappropriate. "You know what you should do, you little twit?" Cameron seethed. "When you get back to Hillsboro start looking up convents that will take you because that's where you belong you stupid little frigid spoiled crybaby."

His cutting words hurt but I refused to react. I lay frozen in the bed not knowing if he was going to try to press the issue or take advantage of me but I felt him rolling over with his back to me and a single tear rolled down my cheek. I tried to go to sleep even though my heart was rushing and I felt frightened and insecure.

It didn't help that McPhee and Holly were giggling in the next bed (apparently oblivious to what just took place between Cameron and me) and after a while I could hear Holly's breathing becoming labored and she kept mumbling "Please…Please….Please….." over and over again.

I kept my eyes closed and I tried to bury my ears in the pillow not believing those two were actually having sex in the same room with two other people. After a while Holly screamed out and McPhee laughed with contented pleasure and then the room became silent except for Holly's murmurs and I fell asleep on what was without a doubt the worse day of my life.

The early dawn's light awoke me. I slipped out of bed as quiet as a mouse. Cameron's back was still to me and the other bed was a jumble of limps sticking out from underneath the covers. I grabbed my backpack and went into the bathroom, changing into my clothes. I used my lipstick to write "I'm out of here," on the mirror and I tiptoed from the room, feeling relieved and free once I got outside.

I had no regrets about leaving. I never should have come in the first place. There was a light fog in the air and a mist too but the ocean was still beautiful and I sucked in the sea air one last time before catching a local bus to the next town where I boarded another bus that would take me to Hillsboro.

Once I was safely on the road and miles from the ocean I finally dug my phone from my backpack and I turned it on. There were 27 voice mails and 19 texts. I could hear the sorrow and worry in my mother's voice on the various voicemails. No anger or threats. Just sadness and resignation, a sense of defeat and exhaustion.

I texted the following to Mom's cell: I made a mistake. On my way home on the bus now.

I knew I was returning to Hillsboro a different person than I had left. I was lost to be found but in reality I found myself realizing that I was perfectly happy and content with my life and my family and my friends. My childhood fantasy of running away proved to be a naïvely impractical idea and I was lucky I hadn't gotten myself into a whole lot more trouble. I knew Cameron could have been much meaner if he wanted to and that spending the night in a hotel room with a boy I barely knew was just plain dumb.

I felt much wiser, much more experienced, and much older as I rode the bus home. But I also felt very foolish and very humbled. How could I have frightened and hurt my family in such a selfish way?

I hadn't slept very well the night before so I was dozing on the bus for many of the miles. I transferred to a local bus in Greenville but I was still dozing for the last few miles of the long ride.

"My route ends here, Miss."

I opened my eyes to see the bus driver staring at me in the large rear view mirror above his head. I nodded and got off the bus, a tear sliding down my face when I saw the familiar surroundings of Hillsboro before me. It was good to be home.

Moments later, a driver stepped out of a car parked across the street.

"Joanna!" the woman exclaimed. "Thank God I found you!"

"Mom?" She was the last person I expected to see.
"Don't ever do that again!" She commanded as she crossed the street.
"I'm sorry! I won't!"

Mom wrapped her arms around me when she reached me. "I'm sorry, too," she said with comfort and understanding as we clung to each other.

I had been lost but now I was found.