Chapter 18

Ana sat frozen in the back seat of Jess' car, her heart racing as fast as her thoughts; fear held her motionless.

"I'm right here." Mark told her, he was sitting next to her, gently petting the back of her hand. "I will always keep you safe, I promise."

"I'm so scared." She told him. "I don't want to go home…" Ana bit her lip trying to hold back tears. "Not when he's there."

"I know." They sweet young man brought her hand to his lips and softly kissed the back of it. "I don't want you to either." Ana's green eyes stared deeply into her boyfriend's deep brown eyes, she could see that he meant every word he said, his strength made her feel stronger.

"Okay, I think I'm ready to go in now." Ana told them. Mark quickly climbed out of the car and jogged around to open her door, holding his hand out for her. "Thank you." She whispered to him after climbing out.

He so badly wanted to tell her that he loved her but this was not the time for that, his protective instinct as to take her away from what scared her, but that also he could not do; he intertwined his fingers with hers and stayed right with her. Marcus pulled the door to the diner open and entered first, Ana only a step behind.

Laura had been watching the door since Jo hung up the phone. "Oh Ana!" She said as tears started pouring from her eyes. "I've missed you so much!" She got up and hurried to her daughter.

"Mom!" Ana cried too. "I've missed you so much too!" She rushed to her mother, still holding tightly to Marcus' hand. Mark knew that even though Ana was happy to see her mother, she did NOT want to let her protector go.

"I was so afraid for you." Laura told her daughter. "When I found out you were in New York… I… I couldn't sleep that night." Laura looked up at the tall young man then back at her daughter.

"Oh, Mom this is Marcus." Ana smiled. "He's my boyfriend."

"It's nice to meet you Marcus." Laura smiled awkwardly, Ana was a very beautiful young girl but had never had a boyfriend before.

"You can call me Mark." He told Ana's mother.

"Let's sit." Laura said gesturing towards the booth she had been waiting in. Ana followed her mother, still holding tight to Marky's hand.

The trio sat down at the booth, nobody said anything, just awkward silence. "Ummm… I'm going to go grab us something to eat, since our dinner was… ummm… interrupted." Mark said sliding himself out of the booth.

"No…" Ana surprised him, holding even tighter onto his hand. "Stay please… We can have a waitress bring us something."

"Oh, okay." He told her sliding back into the booth. "I'll stay with you."

"Ana…" Laura began. "When I found out you were in New York, I knew that you came to stay at your aunt's house… But when I got to that address and found that it was just a store, I was so afraid… I was afraid that I would never find you again, I was afraid that some man…" Laura's eyes quickly shifted to Mark then back to her daughter. "Might be taking advantage of you." Ana could tell that her mother was suspicious of Marcus.

"When I got here I went straight to Aunt Angela's address and found that it was a bodega… I was scared too, Mama." Ana felt Marcus squeeze her hand encouragingly. "I didn't know where to go or what to do… I took my last bit of money and bought a ramen noodle packet. I went across the street to the bus stop and began to eat what last food I thought I was going to have for a while."

"I am so sorry Baby girl." Laura started. "I…"

"A nice person sitting at the bus stop gave me their take out dinner they were taking home." Ana told her, then looked up to Marcus. "I am very grateful for the food I received."

"That makes me feel a bit better." Laura said. "I was so worried that something bad happened… so many runaways end up doing things for drugs and money."

"I didn't Mama, Marcus has been helping ever since he gave me his dinner." Ana smiled widely. "I met so many wonderful people through him. Lu, the Security officer at the Empire State Building, Jo here at the dinner, Jo's daughter Jess and Ellie, Jess' daughter."

"I've been taking very good care of her." Marcus told her. "She is in exactly the same condition she was in when she got to New York."

"Mom…" Ana sighed and shook her head. "I love you, but I can't go back… Not while he is there." Ana fought hard to hold back her tears. "He…"

"He's gone Ana… I figured it out sweetie…." Laura told her. "Well with the help of a new friend. I already started the divorce proses. We will never have to see him again."

"I… I can go back home! I can go back to school!" Ana said excitedly clapping her hands.

"That's wonderful news Ana!" Marcus smiled, he was heartbroken but he didn't show it; he knew this would happen, that is something that was expected at some point. He knew she was best off going home as long as it was safe for her to go. He slid out of the booth unnoticed at first, he was half wat to Jo when Laura called to him.

"Marcus." She called to him. "I heard you!"

"Huh?" Marcus stopped and turned around.

"When I was at the ba-go-ta, I heard a man say Ana's name." Laura told him. "I was going to ask if the Ana you were talking about my Ana."

"Bodega Mom." Ana laughed.

"The bus came and pulled away before I could get across the street."

"That's the bus stop I meet Ana at." Marcus smiled. "We came pretty close to meeting."

"Tell me everything that happened to you since you got here." Laura was so happy to be reunited with her daughter.

Marcus wandered over to the counter and sat down. "Can I get two burgers and two Dr. Peppers?" He said to Jo.

"Sure sweetie." Jo said as she quickly scribbled on the ticket then put it on the wheel in the kitchen window. "What's wrong?"

"Northing." Marcus put on his best smile. "Why do you think something was wrong?"

"Don't pull that crap with me." Jo scolded him, then leaned in close and whispered. "I know you love the girl."

"What?!" Marcus acted like he had no clue what she was talking about. "No… What… what would make you think that?"

"Why don't you tell her?" Jo asked him. Lucky for him the cook rang the little bell signaling that his order was ready. Marcus took both plates to the booth he had left the two ladies talking in.

"Here you go!" Told Ana as he set her plate in front of her then set his down and slid into the seat with Ana.

"Oh! Thank you so much." Ana told him. "I didn't even realize you left."

"It's okay, I was just getting us dinner since the one I had planned kind of got interrupted." Marcus told her then started eating his food.

"Oh! What was it you wanted to tell me?" Ana asked him.

"It's not important." He lied. "When are you going to be leaving for home?"

"Ana and I were planning a trip to come here for her High School graduation, but I figure since we're here now we can do a bit of sightseeing while we are here." Laura told him. "I'd like for you to join us…I want to thank you for taking care of Ana."

"Oh!" Marcus had figured they'd be leaving in the morning. "That sounds wonderful, thank you. It will be a fun way to say good bye." Ana's head whipped up from her food and she stared dead at her mother then looked at her Marky.

"I… I didn't realize we would be saying goodbye." As happy as Ana had been that she was reunited with her mother her heart broke at the thought of leaving the man she had fallen so deeply in love with, the man who had given her so much… Happiness, fun, food, friends, and help with a job.

"I can't go with you; I live here, my job is here." Mark told her. "We can still talk on the phone… Video chat with Messenger.

"Yeah…" Ana sighed. "I guess." Laura seemed oblivious to how the couple was now feeling.

"I was thinking that we could go see the Statue of Liberty tomorrow." Laura told them.

"That sounds fun!" Ana told them.

"I get off at three." Marcus told them. "We can go then."

"Okay, my mom and I can pick you up from work, then we can go from there." Ana said to the group.

"Sounds good to me!" Laura answered

"Okay, then it's a date!" Marcus smiled.

(A/N) If you liked the chapter let me know with a review! Thank you!