The road seemed to close in on Natalie as she struggled to keep driving. She sat behind the wheel of a silver mini-van while her nine year old daughter, Kiley, slept in the back seat. They had been traveling for nearly six hours but Nat’s eyes kept glancing nervously at the rear view mirror. Sleep was weighing down heavily on Natalie’s eyelids. She blinked several times in an attempt to stay awake, but knew it was only a matter of minutes before she passed out completely. She had to find somewhere to stay the night.
Luckily, they seemed to be coming upon a town soon. There were Interstate signs with a few gas station and fast food symbols posted at Exit 273. Welcome to White Springs, it greeted them in big bold letters as she curved right off of the interstate. When the road final straightened out, Natalie had no idea which direction to go. There was only a red blinking light with a street sign that read Jackson Road. Left or Right? Natalie’s instinct was to find a way to get back on the interstate and drive to the next exit, but who knew how far that would be or if it would even be any better. No. She’d have to take her chances here. Out of habit, even though there were no other cars for miles, Natalie flipped down the blinker and turned right, hoping she’d made the right choice.
After passing what seemed like several miles of pastures and crop fields, Natalie finally saw some sign of life. She was disappointed to see that it was just a small run-down gas station off to the right of a four way stop. The only light was a single pole and that didn’t cover much area. In fact, without the headlights on the two very old gas pumps in the center of the tiny lot were barely visible. Natalie pulled into what she could only assume was their single parking spot and shut off the van. She turned around and looked at Kiley, her fragile little body curled up in the seat, eyes closed, face so innocent. That’s when she lost it. Her fingers fumbled with the talisman she wore around her neck and for the first time since they’d left Georgia, Natalie let herself think about everything they were leaving and started to cry.