The story so far:
Sarah and I drove for weeks, stopping to rest when necessary. The Toyota did us well, making it all the way to Pennsylvania. We didn’t hit too much trouble on the way, a few rough spots I had to take care of. Sarah always stayed in the car with her head down. The journey was hard enough without her watching me as I fought resistance. I tried as hard as I could not to taint her with the harsh reality of life. Each kill reminded me of Margaret. You never forget your first. Each one got easier, though, less struggle, less guilt and by my last kill Sarah noticed a change only she could catch.
“You don’t even cry anymore,” she commented. I was no longer responsible for my own survival but for hers as well and before I knew it my maternal instincts kicked in. As far as I was concerned it was either us or them and we were the victor. Our last attack was in Pennsylvania, just near the border of Wilkes-Barre. A shot blew out our front tire and as I pumped the break, steering us to the shoulder lane, I knew the shot was intentional coming from the bushy area on our right.
“Sarah, down,” I yelled and without hesitation she lowered herself in front of the passenger seat squeezing between the dashboard and the floor. I grabbed the handgun Craig had gotten and stepped out in front of car. I didn’t even think, didn’t even flinch as I saw the figured running towards me. The day was turning into dusk as the fight was going to hit sundown. I readied myself, arms stretched out, seconds away from pulling the trigger when a second gun fire flew over my head. In that instant I turned and faced the direction of the bullet, arms still aiming to fire.
“Hey there, just trying to help darling,” a man yelled from the other side of the interstate. He placed his riffle on the ground and walked towards me with his arms in the air. He seemed harmless enough, trying to remember Robert and that first impressions aren’t always what they seem, but part of me wouldn’t forget the experiences I had encountered.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“Name’s Jim, Jim Beaumont. I saw your car swerving. I stopped to help when I noticed the idiot running towards you with his gun. I figured why should a pretty lady like you get blood on her hands?”
“You’re a little late for that,” I whispered. No sooner had the words come out my mouth, Sarah stepped out of the car.
“Stay behind me.” I still had the gun pointed at Jim, unsure if I could trust him.
“I don’t mean to interrupt while you have a gun pointed at my face, but did she just call you Jilly? As in Jilly Bean?”
“How do you know that name?” I said lowering my gun. I knew there was only one way he could know my name and the thought nearly paralyzed me.
“You’re Howard’s woman,” he said. My heart stopped. I froze in mid stance as Sarah tugged on my shirt trying to get my attention.
“Jilly, he knows Howard.” I couldn’t even hear her. Everything went foggy as hope rose up from within and restarted my heart. He survived, I though, he actually survived. Jim wouldn’t tell us much on the road insisting we stay with him and his son for a while to rest up. He loaded the spare tire onto my car (another brilliant idea from Craig) and we followed him to his house.
Paul hugged me the instant he knew who I was. He didn’t say much, not even a hello. I got the sense he was just happy to put a face to a name.
“Howard talked of you all the time,” Jim said.
“How long did he stay here?”
“Two weeks, helped fixed the place up for us.” It sounded just like Howard. He never passed the opportunity to lend a hand, especially in fixing or creating gadgets. Sarah settled right in. She was very comfortable in her new surroundings. I think she was happy to be out of the car and sleeping in a real bed again. We stayed with Jim and Paul longer than expected. Neither one of us was eager to head to a home that we knew would be empty and Sarah liked being around Paul. Overtime he became a big brother to her and vise versa; she was as much a sister to him as someone of his own blood.
Jim passed away after two years. He never made it to Paul’s twenty-first as the doc had predicted, but I think he felt at ease leaving Paul with his new family. Sarah and I stayed on another two years, helping Paul maintain the house and barn. The east coast regained its livelihood and we were able to acquire the necessities to produce a small farm: a few cows, some chickens, and other livestock. By the end of the two years, we had a small business growing as Paul’s farm was the only one in existence at that time. Overtime he became quite the business man, making a name and living for himself. He always kept in touch.
I decided after the last two years, it was time for me and Sarah to head home to Goshen. It was a promise I made to Craig that I knew I should keep. But there was something else, something inside telling me I needed to go home as if everything I needed and was looking for I would find there. New York was just about back to normal and I somehow knew my home would be there waiting for me.
“Do we have to go?” Sarah whined.
“I promised your father.”
“He won’t be there.”
“You don’t know that. Beside, it’s the right thing to do. That’s where I told him we’d be.” In the end she listened and although goodbyes were rough, Sarah and I headed to Goshen in our Toyota Camry.