Important Note: Alice Hudson is not a Christian and she has a past in which she has done things that I do not in any way condone. I am not claiming that her past actions are okay by writing about them. Some have called me hypocritical for making her the way she is. You're entitled to your opinion and I will respect that, but consider this: if every character I ever wrote about didn't ever sin, how could I show the love and redemption of God? If I wrote stories in which none of the characters ever did anything I wouldn't do, where would my story be? I have never and will never write sex scenes or swearing, but my characters are not perfect human beings, and they never will be. They are human.


Chapter One

Alice Hudson drove out of the city not knowing where she was headed or what she would do when she got there. She did not look back at the tall brick house that dwindled in her rearview mirror. She banned her thoughts from what had gone on there, and centered her eyes on the road ahead. As she turned a corner, the small diamond on her left hand caught the sun. A pang of sadness hit her with almost enough force to turn her back to the place she ran from, but she quickly twisted the ring off of her finger and threw it onto the passenger's seat.

She could not go back.

She had no heading. Her mind was racing, whirling, stumbling. Fogged with shock, confused, hurt, betrayed. She was barely able to grasp what had just happened. Part of her was shrinking away from the truth, part of her was trying to sort out what had just happened, and part of her was searching the past for clues. Could she have seen it coming? Could she have predicted this?

The scant baggage in the backseat was a sorry showing for all of her possessions. She now had nothing but the clothing she had snatched in five minutes time, her old guitar, and fifty dollars in her purse. At best, that would get her enough gas to go a little over four hundred miles. In the small recess of her brain that still worked in logic, she realized she knew no one that far away. It was a comforting thought. She did not want to see anyone who knew her, who knew of her past, who knew of the pain she was going through. She did not want any reminders of home… of him.

Christopher. His face flashed through her mind, and she winced. Had those dark eyes really blazed at her with distaste? Had his full lips really spat daggers at her? Had his wide, strong hands really pushed her away? She ached for it to be a dream, for her mind to wake her body, for Christopher to laugh at her and comfort her with a kiss. But the road buzzed against her tires, and she began to go numb as the freeway sped beneath her car.

Where was she going?

Struggling to focus, she watched the signs as they flew by. Air rushed in through the open windows and ruffled her short brown hair, blowing strands into her eyes. Catching a sigh in her throat, she shoved her hair back with her left hand; it felt empty without his ring there to weigh it down. That ring had been a promise. A promise that one day he would marry her. That one day he would make it all ok.

She had rationalized it all in her mind. They were going to get married. They were going to be husband and wife. It had been as certain to her as the sun rising and setting every day. There had been no alternative. He had reasoned away most of her guilt with this assurance. The ring had persuaded her to push away her conscience and smother it with the blanket of his promises.

Her heart was refusing to acknowledge the facts. She was somewhere between foggy disbelief and indescribable pain. She felt like she should be crying, like her heart should be splitting in two, like she should be curling up in a ball and willing the world to pass her by. But something held her back from the brink of despair. It was as if her mind had detached from her heart, and the facts could not reach her emotions.

Taking a short breath, she switched on the radio to drown out the flashing, confusing memories. Only when it was at its peak volume did it distract her from the jumble of thoughts that bounced off the walls of her mind. The channel was on country music. The rollicking twang of the guitar coupled with the nasal voice of the singer would usually drive her up the wall, but today she needed it. She needed the unbridled energy and down-home story to stop the last hour from replaying in her head.

But the guitars only held the memories at bay for a few minutes. As the song changed, so did her thoughts. Would he still love her if she had been less demanding? Would he have stayed with her if she had let the relationship take a slower course? If she had relaxed and not forced him to propose? He had not wanted marriage. Not yet, at least. He had wanted to see how it went, to see how compatible they were, to see how well they lived together before he committed to anything more serious.

Sunlight bounced off the windshields of cars that passed by, and she rifled through the contents of her green faux-leather purse for sunglasses. Her fingers found a nearly empty lipstick tube, three sticks of cinnamon gum, and a menagerie of receipts tangled with old key chains, but no glasses. She must have left them on the counter in her bathroom. Christopher's bathroom.

It was no longer theirs. It was his. She knew she would not be going back to retrieve anything, and was fleetingly thankful that she had nothing of value at his apartment, monetarily or sentimentally. Most of her belongings were still boxed up at her mother's, waiting to be moved in with Christopher. She had been living with him for nearly three months, but some small part of her had held back on a full-blown move. So she had kept her things at her mother's, intending to take it all but never acting on it.

Something within her had been afraid to commit fully to living with Christopher. It had been easy to accept his proposal of marriage, but intimidating to accept his proposal of moving in together. She had loved him; she still did. It had not been anything Christopher had done that had made her hesitate. He had been the same mischievous, persuasive, exuberant man she had fallen in love with. But some part of her had rallied that it was wrong, that it was dangerous, that she would end up as she was now: with a broken heart and nowhere to go.

It could have been her mother's undisguised disapproval of their living arrangement. When Alice had announced she was thinking about moving in with Christopher, her mother had lectured long and passionately about the dangers of living with a man she wasn't married to. And though Alice had partly agreed, she had ignored her mother's warnings in favor of pleasing Christopher. Her mother had not spoken to her since. But their relationship had not been strong before Christopher came along, and the more Alice had grown attached to Christopher, the less she had seen of her mother.

Was it God?

Alice had given up going to church a long time ago. Long before she had ever moved in with Christopher. Not purposely- she had enjoyed the friends she had made there, although the sermons were long and sometimes confusing- but little by little, she had begun to skip Sundays until she had given up going at all. Excuses had come up. Sickness. Events. Late nights.

It had been months since she had last talked to God. Months she had looked at her Bible. Months since she had even cared. She felt neutral where church was concerned. Not eager to stay away, not eager to go. Most of her church friends had faded away once she quit going. She could not remember the last time she had seen any of them. The invitations to coffee had quit, the occasional email had ceased, and she did not feel left out, nor did she miss them.

Christopher had been her life. He had been her entertainment, love, source of friends, future, purpose for life, and family. She had not needed anything outside of him, and she had been happy that way. Almost. The occasional guilty mood slipped in on late, emotional nights, but she had been able to convince herself it was all because she was tired and overworked.

But now… she had no purpose. She had no destination. She had no idea what she wanted. All she had was a void where he had been and a confusing muddle of questions. What if she had refused to leave? Could she have convinced him they would work it out? Or had she been reading him wrong all this time? Could she have seen this coming? Had he really loved her? All of his friends had told her he loved her, yet he had never said so himself, even when proposing. It was something that now made her wonder.

Had he ever really cared, or had he just wanted to sleep with her?

The thought made her feel used. But she quickly pushed it away. Christopher would not have just used her like that. There must have been something he was afraid to bring up. Maybe he had not wanted to hurt her feelings, so he had said nothing and hoped it would go away. Maybe she had come on too strong and overwhelmed him. Maybe he had been misled in his own feelings and had been afraid to tell her.

But walking in, finding him with another woman in the bed she had just shared with him the night before… his startled eyes and clipped words. Alice swallowed. It was hard to believe that the Christopher who had laughed with her yesterday was the same Christopher that had snapped at her to leave a little over two hours ago. What a way to tell a woman you no longer wanted to marry her.

She had been a little early from work. If she had come home just a few minutes later, would the other woman still have been there? Or would he have told her that he no longer wanted her? That he had met someone else and he was in love with that woman? That the future she had been looking forward to was being given to someone else, the man she loved was going to live his life with another woman?

It was strange to her that everything felt so detached. That she had come through the door, bearing colorful flowers and beautiful news, and nothing had snapped at the sight of them guiltily lurching from the bed. She felt almost idiotic remembering how she had asked who his friend was. What they were doing. As if it wasn't obvious. He had looked at her with confusion when she had handed him the flowers without explanation. And then he had told her she was no longer the woman for him. She could grab her things and go.

There had not been a chance for her to even begin telling him her news. And she had not tried. She had forgotten until now. Alice swallowed and glanced at her watch, a dangerous crack beginning to form in the strange walls that kept her emotions from overflowing. She had been driving for two and a half hours, and it was time to stop for gas.

It was almost eight in the evening as she exited the freeway and slowly pulled up to a small-town gas station. A dog watched her car roll forward at the pump from his lazy position in front of the convenience store's door, but as soon as her car stopped he laid his head back on his paws and simply watched with uninterested eyes. The pavement radiated summer heat, soaking into her black flats as she stepped out of her car. There was one other vehicle in at the station; a beat up green truck that she could only classify as an old but most likely faithful monster.

It only occurred to her then to be concerned about her appearance as she walked in to prepay for her gas. The door jingled when she pushed it open, and she caught her reflection briefly in its somewhat dirt-specked glass. Her deep brown eyes looked tired, but the rest of her was fine. Her dark hair, cut in pixyish layers, was messy, but still stylish. She was still dressed in her work clothes: a nondescript black sheath that skimmed her curves lightly and stopped just above her knees. The jewelry store she worked at required black as a uniform.

Seeing herself still dressed for work, she was reminded that she would have to call in. What she would say, she had no idea. She did not know if she wanted to go back, or if she was going to be gone forever, and although her manager was lenient, he could not give her more than a few days leave on such short notice. A slight feeling of irresponsibility nudged at her, coupled with guilt for leaving so suddenly. She was scheduled to work tomorrow.

As she paid the clerk, an older man with a friendly smile and calloused hands, she realized that it had been over seven hours since she had eaten. There were small bags of chips hung near the counter, and a wide array of candy bars in the aisle behind her. But nothing appealed to her. She was only just beginning to feel the pangs of hunger. They were joined by the sudden realization that she might not have enough money to eat.

She had twenty dollars cash in her wallet, and two dollars and fifty-three cents in her bank account. Payday was not until next Friday, and she had just made the last payment on her car. It struck her slightly humorous that she was now completely broke but she fully owned her car. What timing. Christopher had always covered for her when she was out of money. She worked hard, but the jewelry store was minimum wage, part time, and she had had car payments as well as buying most of the food she and Christopher ate. Not to mention the rent she felt obligated to pay him.

Ignoring the food, she went back outside to fill up her tank. She had to step over the dog, who had not moved and did not move except to thump his tail twice, and she heard a door close and someone walked on the pavement behind her as she began to pump gas into her car. Whomever it was went inside; she heard the door jangle and a male voice hailed the clerk inside. Was he the owner of the beat up old truck?

Trying to keep her mind away from the crack in her walled up memories, Alice idly watched the numbers on the pump go up as her car was filled. Gas was slightly more expensive here than it had been in Seattle. Then again, it didn't look like this station got much use. Most of the cars on the freeway whizzed by, probably without a clue that the small town existed.

She wanted to be like this town for a while. Out of the way, left alone, nonexistent to the world. It would be nice to pretend she was someone else, live a life where nothing had ever happened to her. But she would not be able to ignore her past for much longer. Even if she moved to a completely new place, people would ask questions that would lead back to Christopher. She had something of his that could not be ignored, and would soon be a spark for interested queries from strangers.

The pump slowed, then stopped, indicating that either her money was used up or her tank was full; when she focused on the numbers, she was thankful to see that she could go and retrieve three dollars and sixty-two cents from the clerk inside. Hanging the pump back in its cradle, she screwed her gas cap back into the tank's opening, glad she had never driven away without it like her mother had on several occasions.

The dog grunted when she stepped over him and reentered the store. The assumed owner of the old truck was laughing with the clerk. He had a nice laugh. It was the first happy thing Alice had heard since she had left Christopher, and she almost stopped just to listen to it. But the two men turned their attention to her curiously, and she shrank away from the attention, pretending to rifle through the aisles while the man at the counter finished his conversation and then left.

She grabbed a fruit-and-nut health bar, knowing she would need it somewhere down the road. She was not big on health food, though she did try to avoid junk, but it was the only thing that appealed to her at the moment. The clerk did not say much as he subtracted the price of the health bar from the amount owed to her, but the friendly smile never left his face. She was glad for his silence; she did not want any conversation. In fact, she would not have said anything but thank you, except that she had a sudden insistent need that she had to take care of.

"Do you have a bathroom?" Her voice cracked slightly when she asked. From lack of use over the last few hours? Emotional stress manifesting itself in her voice since her heart still refused to see the facts? She did not take time to analyze it.

The smiling clerk nodded, and Alice noticed he was balding. "You get to it from the outside, around the corner." He answered, gesturing with one of his work-worn hands. She fleetingly wondered what he had done before he had landed a job as a clerk. Those hands had not become calloused from minding a till and sweeping floors.

Thanking him, Alice nearly tripped over the dog as she hurried out and around the building. The handle was cold and the bathroom echoed as she shut and locked the door behind her. It was a hideous bathroom; the tiles were an odd faded orange, and the walls were pale yellow, accented with a border of orange and pastel green tiles. Alice could tell that even before the fading, stains, and wear, the bathroom had been ugly. No matter how new, those colors never could have gotten along.

The toilet was peach colored. The sink was blue. The soap smelled like mint. Alice felt like her namesake in wonderland as she took care of business and washed her hands. The mirror in front of her was warped, making her look much thinner and longer than she really was. Briefly, she wondered how Christopher had seen her. Had he thought her beautiful? That was something else he had never told her. She had no idea whether he had thought she was pretty or whether she could use improvement in some areas.

Of their own accord, her eyes fell to her stomach. It was hard to see in the black sheath, but there was a decided roundness there. She had always been fit, so even the smallest amount of extra flesh showed. And it was growing more pronounced. What would he have thought of that? Alice shook her head and dried off her hands. She had to get away from the mirror before her memories barraged her and cracked the strange numb wall around her heart.

The owner of the green truck glanced at her as she walked back to her car. She felt a little shaky all of the sudden, and she wanted to get into her car and just rest in the cushioned seat. But as she pulled out the keys to her Jimmy, her fingers trembled and she dropped them. With a frustrated grunt, she bent to snatch them from the ground; suddenly, everything wobbled and her foot caught in the pavement. The blacktop met her hands and knees roughly as she tripped and caught herself.

It was all she could do to hold back the tears at the sting of a scraped knee and slightly grated hands. The accident was a small thing, but her throat was quickly closing up, and tears were already clouding her vision. Letting out her breath long and slow, Alice tried to push away the sudden onslaught of emotion, controlling her breathing tightly and focusing on swallowing the tears.

"Are you okay?" The owner of the old truck was there, kneeling before her, voice distracting enough for her to look up and nod. He gently helped her to her feet, pulling her up and making sure she was steady on her feet before he bent to retrieve her keys.

When he straightened, Alice noticed first that he was well over six feet tall, and then she saw the odd hazel-grey of his eyes, and blinked. His look was infiltrated with kindness and warmth. As he held her gaze for a brief second, she felt like he could see through the protective wall she put up around strangers and knew exactly what secrets she had and what pain she was going through. But he said nothing. With a short nod and a smile, he handed her the keys and went back to his truck.

He waved slightly as he drove away.

Taking a deep breath, Alice got into her car and sat for a moment. Her heart was beginning to clench, and it was difficult to control her breathing. The strange numbness was wearing off, and as she started her car and drove away, she turned up the radio, forcing herself to sing along with the tune. Anything to distract herself from the deep end of pain.

The sign told her she was a few hundred miles away from Spokane as she merged back onto the freeway. If she could make it there, she would have enough money to nearly fill her tank, and then that would be the end of her road. When she got there, she had no idea what she was going to do. She had no food, she would have no money, and she only had enough clean clothes for a week's worth of wear. And then there was the just-confirmed news that she now had to deal with alone.

Forcing another deep breath into her lungs, she exhaled and glanced at her watch. Eight-thirty. She did not know how much longer she could drive before exhaustion hit; she planned to drive until her head was nodding for sleep. If she had to pull over on the side of the freeway to sleep, she would, but she was hoping for a rest-stop somewhere along the way.

The warm air blew through her car, and she enjoyed it while she was still able to distract herself. Most of her friends would have complained it was too hot and turned on the air-conditioning, but she did not mind the summer warmth. That, and her air-conditioner had not worked for a few years. She had never bothered to get it fixed. That would have just been another bill she could not really afford, and it was a luxury she had never really needed.

Freshly cut grass tinted the air with its aroma, mingling with the earthy smell of dust and the fresh smell of a nearby body of water that Alice could not see. She wound her way over the gentle hills, barely noticing when the sun began to set behind her, as she was continually snatching her thoughts away from Christopher and refocusing her attention on the song blaring from her speakers. The current song was a predictable I-lost-my-dog country tune, and Alice could relate with the man singing. She'd never owned a dog, and she still had her car, but her lover had left her and her friends were all gone. She had nowhere to go, nothing to look back to, and no one to wait for.

She would have laughed if it had not been so painful.

Turning off the radio, she opted to let the scenery distract her. It was getting increasingly drier, less trees, more fields of unidentified crops. In the light of the sunset, everything looked bluish. The air was cooler now, comfortable as it touched Alice's bare arms. Far off farmhouse lights twinkled as dusk quickly faded to night, and the road became more and more deserted until the only thing left driving seemed to be the occasional semi-truck.

Alice liked the hum of the wheels against the road. It had been soothing to her as a child; she had always fallen asleep in the car. Thankfully, the sound did not affect her as it had when she was five. It was a sort of white noise for her, something to calm her and set a steadied tone to the discord of her thoughts. She was able to forget for a few moments as she stared into the dark path ahead and quieted her mind to the sound of the road.

But even that brought up memories of Christopher, memories of the day trip they had taken together to see the tulips in Arlington, visit his sister in Bellingham, putter around in Mount Vernon. That had been a bare two months ago. He had given her a necklace shaped like a ladybug, and they had talked about wedding plans. After seeing the tulips in full bloom, she had decided that those were the flowers she wanted at her wedding, and her colors would be sunshine yellow and pastel blue. The yellow was her decision, the blue his.

The crack in the wall split a little more, letting her emotions and memories trickle out slowly, painfully. She had known Christopher for almost three years, and they had been dating for a year before he asked her to marry him. He had been everything she thought she wanted. Full of humor, open-hearted, sweet, loved kids. A little impulsive, maybe, somewhat unstable when it came to set plans. But his impulsiveness had shown her how to enjoy life a little more.

She had tried things she would never have done on her own. Not any crazy extremes, like skydiving or bungee jumping, but daring in their own way. She had eaten cow tongue on a dare, jumped into the freezing bay in January, screamed her lungs out on the Bungee Shoot at the fair. In some ways, she had been a different person around Christopher. More daring, more glamorous, more high-strung. He had given her license to live a life of abandon.

Now that she was on her own, she did not know who to be. She felt lost without his driving personality there to guide her. Clenching her fingers around the wheel, she glanced at the green light of the car's digital clock. Nine-forty-seven. She could drive for another hour or so and spend the night in some parking lot in Spokane, or pull over at the next rest stop to sleep. After three hours of driving, she was ready to crash. Not in the literal sense, but her muddled brain was turning to mush.

She had no reason to push on until she had to stop out of pure exhaustion. There was no set destination to reach, thus no sense in forcing herself to go on until she passed out. But the driving helped to keep her memories from attacking. What would happen when she stopped? She was tired enough that she hoped to fall asleep as soon as she stopped the car, but there was no telling what would happen when the hum of the road no longer drowned out her thoughts, when the passing darkness stilled, when silence ruled over her car.

Still, when she saw the exit for the rest stop, she switched on her blinker and took the road. Her hesitation to stop was overruled by the pressing need for a bathroom once again. It had not been long since she had used the gas-station's facilities, but her body would not listen to time. When she had to go, she had to go, and no reasoning of her mind could persuade her needs to wait another hour.

The rest-stop was lit by tall, dim lights that cast a yellow glow on the few semis that had stopped there for the night, and a car was parked in front of the darkly painted restrooms. A mother hurried her teenager and toddler out to their car as Alice parked in the slanted spaces, and she was reminded of the one certainty that her future held. Her eyes followed the toddler for a moment.

He was blonde, reminding her of Christopher. His chubby little cheeks were creased with a grumpy frown as his mother reached down and picked him up; he sleepily stuck one thumb in his mouth and leaned his head on his mother's shoulder. And then they got into their car, and she could not see through the tinted windows.

With a deep sigh that did nothing to ease the pain taking over her heart, Alice twisted to reach her suitcase. She did not want to sleep in the fitted black shift. The pair of jeans she grabbed were old and stretchy, and the tee shirt was loose, comfortable. Hurriedly, due to her insistent bladder, she got out of her car and made her way to the bathroom. The air still held leftover warmth of the day, and she was thankful that it would not get any colder. Summer nights in eastern Washington were never chilly. She had lived in a town not too far away for a few of the early years of her life, and most of those memories were drenched in sun and warmth.

The bathroom was empty and echoing. Bits of paper towels were crumpled next to the garbage can by the door. Thankfully, that was the only mess in the otherwise clean restroom. Alice took the disabled stall since she needed to change her clothes. She pulled the black sheath over her head first, discarding that to the side as she pulled on the torn jeans and pale blue tee shirt. It was not until after she had relieved herself that she accidentally let the flood tear through her.

Zipping up her jeans, her hand briefly connected with the bump of her stomach, and she was slowed by a rush of emotion. Pulling up her shirt to bare her belly, she took a shaky breath as she stared at the firm little roundness of flesh. She had not had time to think about this until now. She had not let herself think about it on the road. Not while she was driving. Not while she had to focus on getting somewhere.

Slowly, she ran a hand over her stomach. "Hello, baby." She whispered. Then reality hit her with a hard slap.

She was on the road to nowhere, pregnant with her ex-fiancé's child, broke, and alone. The pain that washed over her was a riptide of emotions. It pulled her under, and she sank to the floor and sobbed. Her voice echoed off the walls of the restroom as her heart cracked open and the day's events crashed from her memories into her emotions. Every bone in her body wanted to run back to Christopher and be comforted by his jokes and laughter, but she knew that was no longer a reality.

She could not wake up to his smile, she could not laugh away her tears with him, she could not snuggle into his arms for a kiss. Some other woman had taken her place. A woman with tanned skin and bleached hair, a woman who was taller, prettier, skinnier, and probably richer. Did that woman have any idea how much Alice had invested in Christopher? Did that woman care that she had just broken the dreams of someone else's future?

The door of the restroom whooshed open suddenly, and Alice choked back her cries. Footsteps clacked to the stall next to her. The woman's cell phone rang, a loud, obnoxious jangle of random notes. Quietly, as the woman answered her phone, Alice pushed up from the floor, gathered her dress, wiped her face, and left the stall. She could not entirely stop her tears, though, and she silently heaved out her breath as she exited the restroom and headed back to her car.

Her vision blurred, she slipped into the passenger's side of her Jimmy and threw her dress in the back. Something small and hard was beneath her; fishing it off of the seat, Alice was greeted with the sparkle of a tiny diamond on a silver band. It shimmered through the veil of her tears. She threw it into the garbage bag and tried to forget that he had ever proposed to her.

Pulling the lever for the seat, she laid it back as far as it would go and curled up awkwardly on her side. Some little bit of common sense reminded her to lock her doors, and then she was crying again. Where would she go? What would she do without him? What would she do with his child? The questions barraged her tired mind as she curled up tighter and wrapped her arms around her heaving chest.

Her mother probably would have taken her in, but Alice did not want to deal with the "I told you so" she knew she would get eventually. She did not want to deal with the shock and disappointment when her mother found out she was pregnant. She did not want to deal with her mother's friends, all who would come over and offer her nosy advice with much shaking of heads and "tisking" of tongues.

She did not want to deal with anything.

As she lay in her car crying, Alice wondered if the pain would ever end. She knew she could not run away from it entirely, but she hoped that a strange place and a new life could get rid of reminders. In her mind, if she was in a new place, she would transform into a new person who did not have a ripped past. She could get a new job, make new friends, and create new memories to replace the old ones.

But then there was the baby. That was one thing she could not erase from her past. She would not get an abortion; no matter how unplanned and unexpected the pregnancy was, it was a baby, and it was hers. Her mother had raised her single-handedly. Alice would have to do the same. She had not even thought about whether she would tell Christopher, but at the moment any sort of contact with him was too painful to consider.

Turning her face into the leather headrest, she closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, willing the shaking sobs to stop. She was exhausted. Her eyes felt swollen from crying, her nose was plugged up, and she had a headache coming on. It would have been a blessing to be able to go somewhere and take a shower to ease the ache in her back from driving.

The rumble of an old engine growled into the parking lot, and though her eyes were closed, Alice could tell that the vehicle idled into a space not far from her car. Suddenly, she was acutely aware of how alone she was, sleeping in a car with no alarm in a deserted parking lot hours away from home. No way to defend herself if some psycho broke into her car with bad intentions.

She lay tense on the seat as she heard the engine quiet and the door of the other vehicle open. It slammed shut and echoed through the empty air. Footsteps scuffed across the pavement and slowly faded as whoever it was made their way to the restroom. Alice felt relief flood through her. No psycho planning to break and enter and maim. Just another traveler in need of facilities.

With a weak laugh, she curled her hand under her cheek and felt herself drifting. Her mind brought up pictures of Christopher, but she was finally too relaxed to deflect them or react to the pain.

By the time the other driver came out of the restroom, Alice was unaware of the world. She did not wake when the dim glow of the old lights were shadowed from her face, and she did not stir when the scuffing footsteps shuffled outside her door. Keys jingled as the traveler briefly paused at her window, but she did not hear them. Her dreams registered the slamming of the other car's door only slightly, and then the vehicle rumbled away, and the parking lot fell silent.