Chapter Nine: Stone’s Throw (Diana’s Point of View)
“How much longer until we reach Pittsburgh?” Raphael asks the next morning as he walks up behind me.
The map is placed on a table in the kitchen of the church. I hover over it and try to count the miles from here to Pittsburgh in my head. I count the days and divide them by hours of daylight. “A few days by foot. Maybe five or six days tops.” I look up. “Where’s Emma?”
“Outside taking a walk. I would’ve accompanied her, but she’s safe in the daylight,” he says and leans against the counter with one leg lapped over the other. “I was wondering what you plan on saying to your Aunt when you find her. Have you given any thought to what you’re going to say?”
I don’t know what I’m going to say to my Aunt. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. Now, it does make me wonder. “I’ll figure it out when I get there.”
“You have a few days to think about what you’re going to say to her, but you should really think about it.”
Hurrying footsteps get louder the closer they get to us. Emma runs in the kitchen and over to us with a huge grin on her rosy face. “You guys’ll never guess what I just found,” she says. Her voice is high and giddy.
Raphael and I stare at her, confusion on the both of our faces. I question whether or not she’s finally cracked.
“Come on,” she says and pulls me along with her by the arm. “Let me show you what I discovered.”
Raphael’s right behind as Emma leads us out of the church through the front doors. We make our way around the side of the church and over to the wooden garage in the backyard. She pulls the garage doors open. Sunlight seeps inside and lights the garage up.
There inside sits an old green Chevy truck with the logo of the church on its side doors.
“See,” Emma points at it and almost bounces on her heels.
“How do we know this old thing still works?” I don’t want to give myself false hope, though I can feel it blooming inside against my better judgement.
Raphael walks over to the truck and pops the hood open. “Let’s find out,” he says and takes a look under the hood.
Beside him, Emma and I watch him pull tubes, nozzles, and wires out. He open them and look through every little part inside the engine. Satisfied, he walks over to the driver’s side and opens the door. We see him hop into the driver’s seat and have a look around. A few minutes later, we hear the rattling of keys. A moment after that, the rough sound of the engine comes to life.
“It works,” I whisper in disbelief.
The engine dies down and quits. Raphael hops out and walks over to us with a smile on his face. “The truck runs fine,” he examines. “There’s enough gas to get us to where we need to go.”
Emma and I share a look.
“Do you know how to drive it?” Emma asks him before I can.
“Yeah,” he answers and looks between us. “Don’t you two know how to drive?”
“In this type of economic downfall people don’t really drive cars,” I tell him. “No, we don’t know how to drive.”
He nods like he should’ve considered that. “Okay. You both go get your stuff and we’ll head out. I can drive.”
With his reassurance, we run back inside the church and pack up all of our stuff. It’s not much, only two backpacks full of clothes, bottles, and hunting equipment. We had to pack light when we left South Dakota because we were travelling by foot and didn’t want to be weighed down.
Raphael places our bags into the bed of the truck while we get into the passenger side. Packed and ready to go, he gets back in the driver’s seat and shuts his door. He puts the key in the ignition, turns it, and brings the old beast back to life.
“Here we go,” he says as we pull out of the garage and head for Pittsburgh.
Sitting and looking out the window, I have time to think about Raphael’s question. Does my Aunt even knows of my existence, and if she does, would she want to know me. I’ve travelled across the country to seek her out. The least she can do is talk to me. But that’s if I find her. I turn to see Emma. She’s passed out with her head leaning on my shoulder. I hope we didn’t travel all this way for nothing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself if I’m wrong, and I’ve dragged Emma along with me. Sighing, I turn my head to look back out the window.
The day passes before I know it. Hours of sitting in the truck has time lapsing in my mind. I stare at the yellow and white lines painted on the roads blankly. The sky’s a deep shade of purple by the time I see a green sign that identifies the town we’ve entered as Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.
The truck comes to a stop in front of a library and the engine dies.
“Why are we stopping?” I turn and ask Raphael.
He points out the window at the descending sun. “It’s almost night. We’ll stay here and continue travelling at daybreak tomorrow.”
“We’re so close,” I tell him and remove my seatbelt.
We unpack for the night in the former library. There are shelves upon shelves of dusty books with yellowed pages. There are lines pressed into the red carpet of the floor where desks, chairs, and tables once sat. I breathe in the thicker air that mixes with the fresh air from outside now. The scent reminds me of an abandoned building. Emma falls asleep as soon as she lays down on the blanket. I sit next to her on the blanket and stare blankly at the dusty books.
“You need to stop worrying,” Raphael says as he walks over and kneels down beside me. “We’re only a stone’s throw away from Pittsburgh. We’ll be there in the morning. Just relax.”
I know he’s right. He always seems to be right. I lay down and try to relax my tense muscles. Noises outside of the library make me sit up with a quickness.
“Stay here,” he whispers and walks out of the library doors without making a single sound.
Chapter Ten: Family (Diana’s Point of View)
Raphael reenters the library and comes back over to me. He shrugs his shoulders as he sits down next to me on the worn-out gray carpet. “No one was out there. It must’ve just been the wind.”
I lay down on the blanket to sleep. The creeping feeling inside of me makes me feel we aren’t alone. Brushing it off, I close my eyes, and know I’m safe as long as he’s next to me. Within no time, I’m comatose.
The next morning we’re back on the road. I grow anxious in my seat as we enter Pittsburgh. Emma nudges me with her elbow and smiles widely; her way of saying we did it. Our premature excitement is thwarted when the truck begins putt, putting and comes to a slow stop.
“What happened?” I ask Raphael when we come to a complete stop in the middle of the road.
“The truck stalled,” he replies and opens the driver’s side door. “We ran out of gas.” He sighs and hops out of the truck. “We’ll have to continue on foot.”
Emma and I get out. We grab our backpacks and follow Raphael down the road. He has the map out again and looks it over as we venture. I try to stay in high spirits as we go. I can’t let one thing like a truck stalling completely destroy my excitement today. Not when we’ve come so far.
Almost an hour passes before we reach the neighborhood of Morningside. I check every street sign we pass by because I know we’re getting close to our destination. All the houses lining these streets are older, Victorian maybe, and once upon a time could’ve been historical houses.
“Wellesley Avenue,” I say under my breath as I stand before the sign.
We head down Wellesley Avenue, the street Thea’s supposed to live on. Rows of houses blur passed me in a haze as I speed walk towards the 1400s numbered houses. 1401, 1403, I think as I pass them. 1405, 1407. I stop in front of a three story reddish-brown brick house with a front porch.
“1409,” I say. “This’ it.”
Standing still, I take a soothing breath to counteract the anxiety. One step before the other, I suck it in and walk up the steps onto the porch. Emma and Raphael are with me as I’m in front of the door. My fist raps on the wooden door.
We wait, but no one answers.
I knock again, a little harder this time.
There’s only silence on the other side.
“Maybe she doesn’t live here anymore,” Emma sympathizes in a soft voice. “She could’ve moved.”
What more can I do? I travelled across the country to get here. I’ve done all I possibly can. I nod slowly and feel my shoulders slump with defeat. I can’t believe we came all this way to discover no one lives here. I don’t protest when Emma leads me away from the door with her hand on my back guiding.
A loud crashing sound comes from within the house and alarms us. We stop and turn back to the door. Raphael puts his hand on the doorknob and twists it. It’s unlocked. He pushes the door open with a gentle nudge. It squeaks as it swings.
“Is anyone here?” He calls out inside.
No one answers again.
We go inside the house with quiet stealth. The three of us split up and have a look around the house to see if anyone’s here. I head up the stairs to the second floor. No one appears as I peek into the rooms: two bedrooms, a bathroom, a room filled with books, and a larger room with unopened boxes on the bare wood floor. There’s no dust. Everything gives me the impression it’s been used recently. The air even smells of Windex, polish, and potpourri.
Where are they at then?
Finding no one upstairs, I head back down to the first floor. Raphael’s at the bottom of the staircase when I get there. There’s a crease forming in-between his black eyebrows. I can tell he found no one either.
“No luck,” I shake my head in confusion.
“Someone definitely lives here,” he observes.
Emma’s voice calls us from below. “Guys, come downstairs. Please.”
We find the basement door in the kitchen. I go down the stairs with Raphael behind me.
“What did you find?” I ask Emma and pause in step as I see her in full view now. She has her trembling hands raised in the air. She’s as still as a statue. All I can focus on is the guy, a year or two younger than us, holding a shotgun. The barrel’s pointed in Emma’s direction.