"Here, take this. We don't have much time." Mike's frantic voice was loud in my ear. Still dazed, I glanced up at him and saw he was holding an envelope out for me to take. My eyes stared at the envelope, but I couldn't make myself reach out for it.
"Emily." Mike's voice was soft but firm. "I know this is a lot to take in, but I need you to concentrate. Take the envelope." He enunciated the last few words slowly, carefully.
My hands shook as I reached out for it. "I'm not sure I can do this, Mike." I finally found my voice. "This is crazy. I—I don't know where to go." Once I had the envelope in my grasp, it felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.
"You can do this. This life you've been living, this isn't a life for you. Anywhere is better than here."
I felt the darkness closing in around me. I could feel my throat getting tighter. My breaths were short and quick. If I didn't calm myself down, I was going to have a full-fledged panic attack. My mind was still trying to process what was happening.
The person I trusted most in the world had woken me up in the middle of the night, just thirty minutes ago, telling me to get dressed and be quiet. I didn't question Mike then. I didn't question him when he led me out of the penthouse suite, or when we he led me down the hall to the back stairwell and came out at the back of the casino. I still didn't question him when I saw his car parked at the end of the dark alley, or when we pulled away from the building without an explanation of any kind. It wasn't until we pulled onto the highway and the bright lights of the Vegas strip were behind us that I finally asked what was going on.
"You're getting out of here, Emily. You're going to get as far away from here as possible," he’d told me.
It was only then that it hit me. He was helping me escape. He was helping me get away from Jake. I was too stunned to say anything then, and I was too afraid to say anything now.
"Emily, are you listening to me? We don't have much time." Mike’s voice was louder now, more demanding. I blinked away my thoughts and looked up at him. He stood a good foot and a half taller than me, his gray hair receding almost to the point of baldness. He was old enough to be my father, and truth be told, he was the closest thing I’d ever had to one.
As I stood here now, I felt like a scared little girl—not sure what to do, looking up at him for the answers.
"The bus should take you to the main station downtown. From there, you choose where to go. You choose how to live your life." He frowned and then his face twisted into something else entirely—tortured and sad. He and I both knew this was probably the last time we’d ever see each other.
"There's a passport, social security card, and twenty thousand dollars in the envelope. It should be enough for you to get on your feet and start a new life, one far away from here." His voice cracked on the last couple words. He cleared his throat, trying to cover up his weakness.
"I don't want his money, Mike." I shoved the envelope back out to him to take. I didn't want any part of him near me.
"It's my money, Emily. Money that I've earned and saved. It's mine and I want you to have it."
"It's still a part of him." I shook my head. "And I can't take your money."
"All those years I looked away. Let him treat you like nothing. All those times I should have helped you. I'll never forgive myself for letting him hurt you for so long." He closed his eyes and paused for a moment, his lips forming into a hard, tight line. "Take it. I need you to take it."
Heather London is a young adult author who loves to write stories full of fantasy, romance, and science fiction. She is a lover of only the finest of coffee and premium craft beer, but will settle for anything chocolate, regardless of its quality. Heather lives with her husband in Dallas, TX where she is currently working hard on her next project.
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