Tripp hadn’t said much when he came to get me. He had just asked if I was sure, and when I’d said yes he had taken my bag and put it in the compartment of his bike before handing me a helmet and a leather jacket. I put both on.
We had been riding for about two hours when he pulled into a gas station. My legs were slightly numb. I wasn’t sure I could walk when I got off that thing. Tripp got off and then took my helmet and hung it on the bike. I didn’t ask him why he wasn’t wearing a helmet but I was glad he had one for me to wear. He then held his hand out to help me off. I managed to sling my leg over the bike and held on to both his hands as I stood up.
“Ouch,” I said with a weak smile.
He grinned. “Yeah, you’ll get used to it,” he told me, then nodded his head toward the store. “Go in, use the restroom, and get yourself something to eat and drink. We’ll take a little break before we go any farther.”
I had focused on the road and the cars we passed. I’d managed to fight off any thoughts of Woods. But they were there in my head, teasing me. They wanted to haunt me. They wanted to break me. He would know soon that I was gone. “Where are we going?” I asked, trying to think of anything other than Woods.
“Not sure. We’re just riding. I thought you might need that right now. I’m heading north. I figure we’ll find somewhere interesting by bedtime to stop at.”
This was what I needed. I nodded. “Okay.”
“I gotta fill up,” he told me, and I headed inside the store. I would need to call Braden now. I hadn’t told her I was leaving Woods. She wouldn’t have seen it my way. But once Woods knew I was gone he would call her first. She would be worried. I should prepare her. I slipped my phone out of my pocket and remembered I’d had it switched off. I didn’t want to be traceable. I would reactivate it in the next big city. A new number. One no one knew.
After using the restroom I grabbed a bottle of water and some Cheetos, paid, and headed outside to sit at a picnic table that sat in a grassy area.
Tripp glanced over at me before he went inside and did the same. By the time he came outside I was finished with my bag of Cheetos. He dropped a candy bar, a bag of peanuts, some beef jerky, and a bag of gummy worms on the table. “Eat some more,” he said before picking up the beef jerky and taking a bite of it.
I reached for the candy bar and broke it in half before eating it. We ate in silence. I was afraid to try to talk to him. He wanted to know why I was doing this. He didn’t think I should. I could tell by the way he was acting.
“He didn’t know you were leaving. Didn’t even have a clue. That sucks, Della. It really does. The dude’s gonna take this real hard.”
I stopped eating and stood up. “I can’t think about that right now, okay? I need to think about other things. Not that. It’s what was best for him. That’s all I can tell you. Please, let’s not talk about it.”
Tripp let out a weary sigh, then nodded. “Fine. We won’t talk about it. Not right now, anyway. Eat some worms, they’re good for you,” he said with a smirk as he pushed the bag of gummy worms toward me.
“I’m not hungry.” I wasn’t. I felt sick now.
“Fine. I’ll take this with us. You’ll get hungry again soon. You barely ate anything.”
“Can I use your phone to call my friend Braden?”
Tripp nodded and pulled his phone out of his pocket to hand it to me.
“Thanks,” I replied as I took it from him.
I walked far enough away that he wouldn’t hear me. I was going to lie to Braden some, if only to keep her from telling Woods the truth.
Dialing her number, I held my breath, hoping that I could find a way to tell her and make it believable. She would go straight to Woods with my location and reason for leaving if she knew the truth.
“Hello?” Braden’s voice sounded curious. She didn’t recognize the number.
“It’s me,” I said into the phone.
“Della? Where are you?”
“I’m traveling the world. Living life. Woods’s life isn’t what I want for myself. I need adventure.”
Braden didn’t respond. She was thinking. I knew the look on her face even though I couldn’t see it.
“What happened? Stop bullshitting me and tell me where you are and what’s wrong.” I was a horrible liar and Braden knew me better than anyone.
“I’m traveling. I’m not alone and I’m okay. I just need some time. I’ll check in when I can but I need time to move on from things. This is why I got in your car and took off to begin with, anyway. Woods changed that but it was only temporary. I need to do this for me.”
“I’m still calling bullshit. I don’t believe you but I won’t push. Call me when you can, and be safe. Can I trust who you’re with to keep you safe?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“You won’t tell me who it is?”
“No. I need you to not tell Woods that you talked to me. Tell him nothing. He will come after me and I don’t want him to.”
Braden let out a small growl of frustration. “He loves you, Della,” she said.
“And I love him. But it’s time I lived. I can’t be locked up in that small town.”
“I hope you’re not making the biggest mistake of your life,” she said in a defeated tone.
“It was the best chapter. I’ll have more chapters though.”
“I love you,” Braden said.
“I love you, too,” I replied.
“Call me soon.”
I hung up and walked back over to Tripp, who was watching me.
“Thanks,” I said, handing back his phone.
“Did you have yours turned off so he couldn’t track you?” he asked, standing up.
“Damn, girl. You didn’t leave the boy a bone, did you?”
“Can we go? I just want to ride.”
“Yeah, let’s go,” he said, and headed for the Harley parked near the table.