Run Girl RunWillow Rose
THREE WEEKS LATER
ONE MONTH LATER
About the Author
What Hurts the Most (7th Street Crew Book 1)
Order your copy today!
Books by the Author
Copyright Willow Rose 2020
Published by BUOY MEDIA LLC
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
Cover design by Juan Villar Padron,
Special thanks to my editor Janell Parque
To be the first to hear about new releases and bargains from Willow Rose, sign up below to be on the VIP List. (I promise not to share your email with anyone else, and I won't clutter your inbox.)
- Go here to sign up to be on the VIP LIST :
Tired of too many emails? Text the word: “willowrose” to 31996 to sign up to Willow’s VIP text List to get a text alert with news about New Releases, Giveaways, Bargains and Free books from Willow.
Follow Willow Rose on BookBub:
Connect with Willow online:
At least they weren’t literally living on the street. At least they had a roof over their heads and a place to sleep. Even though it was tight inside the car, Emilia García didn’t think it was as bad as when they had stayed in that apartment with three other families, sharing one bedroom, one bath, and one small kitchen.
“I’ll pick you up at two-thirty, as usual. If I’m not here, then just wait a few minutes, okay?”
Emilia looked out the window of the station wagon as her mother drove up in front of the school. This was the tough part—getting dropped off. The other kids, on their way into school, always stopped and stared at the towels in the windows and the old rusty car. She feared that they could see all their belongings stashed in there when Emilia opened the door.
It was the fourteenth school Emilia had attended in just her eleven years on this earth.
“Have a great day, honey,” her mother said as she stepped out of the car, keeping her head down and avoiding any eye contact at all cost.
Emilia sent her a smile, hoping to brighten up her mother’s day. They had been living in their car for three months now, while her mother looked for a new job. Emilia’s mom and dad had split up two years ago, and after a while, her mother hadn’t been able to keep up with the bills. After that, they were constantly on the move. They were sleeping on friends’ couches or in shelter after shelter. In one of the places where they stayed, a roommate tried to kill a neighbor while they were there, so finally, they had found out they liked sleeping in their car better than any of those places.
“You too, Mom. I love you.”
“Love you too, baby.”
Emilia slammed the door shut, then watched as the old station wagon drove away, making all kinds of odd noises as it went. A couple of girls from Emilia’s class giggled as they passed her, and she looked away. She let them walk inside first before she followed them. Most people might think that school would be terrible for Emilia, since she didn’t have any friends, and no one ever talked to her. But the fact was, Emilia loved school. She loved walking into the airconditioned building and feeling like a normal kid for a few hours. After a night in the warm car, she was usually sticky and sweaty and sick of the muggy Miami air. Inside the school building, no one knew she had been up at five o’clock, so they could go to a McDonalds to use the restroom and wash themselves. They didn’t know she had been awake every hour during the night to make sure they were both safe, that no one was trying to steal what little they had or attack them. They didn’t know that Emilia laid awake at night, listening to her mother’s crying in the darkness.
“Welcome to class, students; please find your seats,” the teacher said to the class while smiling at Emilia, who was her favorite student.
Emilia smiled back, feeling that strange soothing sensation like she was finally at home.
Here, she was just like everyone else. She was a student who had come to learn. And usually, she was able to forget—at least for a little while—how terrified she was of summer break, of her mother getting hurt when she wasn’t there to protect her, or of not surviving another night. Here, she was able to forget all those things for a little while.
Though, there was one thing that she couldn’t escape no matter where she went, no matter how much she tried.
The terrible thought of that guy finding them, the one with the steel-grey eyes and the big rough hands who kept reaching out for her in her nightmares.
“Eat up. You need it, baby.”
Emilia looked down into the can of beans. She had only eaten half of its contents and could barely get herself to eat more. The smell alone made her want to throw up. Cold beans eaten directly from the can was her least favorite meal. Not that she could afford to be picky; she should be happy that she even got any food.
Emilia forced a smile and looked at her mom across the cabin of the old station wagon. They had turned the back into a living area by putting the seats down and hanging towels in front of the windows, so no one could look in. It was so hot in there all afternoon, and they couldn’t wait till the sun went down. Emilia and her mom had spent the afternoon walking the streets and going into stores to cool down. That way, they didn’t have to get in the car till just before su
ndown. The AC only worked when the engine was turned on, and they couldn’t afford the gas to drive around except when going somewhere important like to school or looking for jobs for her mom.
Emilia took one more bite, then swallowed, closing her eyes, barely chewing, so she tasted it as little as possible.
“I’m not hungry anymore,” she said and handed her mother the can. Her mother gave her a look.
“Are you sure? It’s all we have.”
She nodded, even though she felt her stomach rumbling. The school served breakfast, and she still had half a muffin in her backpack she could eat at night if she woke up starving as she usually did. Emilia felt bad for not telling her mom about the muffin, but she needed it to make it through the night.
Her mother ate the rest of her beans, shoveling the last part into her mouth, tipping the can upside down. Some of the red sauce ran down her chin, and she wiped it with her finger, then licked it.
Emilia winced when seeing this. Everything about them and the way they lived was so embarrassing.
Emilia leaned back and closed her eyes in shame, hoping the temperature would go down soon. They had popped both windows open in the front to let in some air. But no wind moved outside, so it didn’t help much. Emilia was sweating heavily and felt tired. She peeked out from behind one of the towels and looked into the parking lot where they had decided to stay for the night. They usually shifted around, so the police wouldn’t realize they were living there and chase them away. Tonight, they had chosen to park at the port. Emilia never liked sleeping there much. She preferred the parking lot at Walmart, where she felt safer. Down here, it was so vacant. They were surrounded by huge containers and enormous ships, but it all seemed so big and scary. Emilia thought about her day at school and was looking forward to going back the next day. But with every day that passed, they came closer to the weekend, and Emilia hated the weekends. The days drifting around with nothing to do were long and painful.
“Do you have homework?” her mother asked.
“Already did it at school,” Emilia said. She failed to mention she had to do it at school since it was required to be done on a computer. She didn’t want her mother to feel like a failure more than she already did.
“Maybe we should just call it a night, huh?” her mother said. “Get some sleep? It seems to be cooling down a little now already. There’s a breeze coming from the water. I think it’ll be real nice in a minute or two. I’ll leave the windows cracked open for the night.”
Emilia nodded. There was no point in staying awake because they had nothing to do. Emilia was exhausted anyway from waking up so many times the night before when her mother was crying. She really hoped she could just doze off now and not wake up till it was light out again, and the day had begun. She needed to drift off into the world of her dreams, where she’d forget about how miserable her life was.
They used a toilet on the port to brush their teeth and go to the bathroom before bedtime, then got back inside the car and locked the doors.
Her mother leaned over and kissed her in the darkness before she grabbed her pill bottle and took a couple. They were sleeping pills, which her mother often took before bedtime because she needed to sleep heavily. She couldn’t afford to take them often, so it only happened on some days.
“Good night, sweetie. See you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Mommy,” Emilia sighed while secretly praying for sleep to come quickly. “I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Emilia was sleeping soundly when it happened. She was dreaming about her father, about the time before he and her mom split up, and those were the best dreams she could have. He was holding her in his arms, swinging her around like he always used to do when she was younger. And he was laughing. Emilia barely remembered him laughing anymore since, in the end, before her parents split up, no one ever laughed in her house anymore. And her mother had barely laughed since.
They were in the middle of a deep hug, her father and her, when she felt movement. In her dream, it resulted in an earthquake, and she felt herself getting stirred up with fear. Her dad didn’t seem to feel it. He just kept hugging her and laughing, and she had to yell at him to let him know there was an earthquake. Still, he didn’t let her go, and she felt so safe in his arms, even though the entire earth shook beneath them.
“Dad?” she said in the dream. “I think something is wrong.”
“No, sweetie; we’re fine. We’re safe here,” he said, smiling. The sight of his smile calmed her. But then another thought struck her, one she couldn’t escape.
Mom? Where is Mom?
Her heart began to race in her chest as she realized her mother was nowhere to be seen.
“Mom?” she called out as the earth shook even stronger beneath her. “Mom?”
Now it felt like it wasn’t just the ground beneath them that shook; it was the entire universe.
“What’s happening? Dad? What’s going on?”
As she turned to look in her dream, she spotted her dad suddenly far away as the ground opened up and swallowed him. She watched him disappear, screaming, then woke up inside the car, heart pounding in her chest, gasping for air.
“Dad? Mom? Mom?”
She opened her eyes just in time to feel the push. She gasped and pulled the towel aside, only to see the edge of the dock disappear behind them and someone standing on that dock looking down at her. A face she knew a little too well.
A face with deep-set steel-grey eyes.
Emilia gasped fearfully and then heard the loud sound of the car plunging into the water. Paralyzed with panic, Emilia stared into the darkness as the car sunk. It took a few seconds for her to figure out what was going on, that this was no longer a dream.
Then, she screamed.
She reached over and shook her mother, but she wouldn’t wake up. The sleeping pills had knocked her out completely, and when that happened, Emilia knew there was no way she could wake her.
“Mom, please,” she moaned as the car sunk deeper and deeper into the water, and some of it started to spurt in through the cracks. It was creaking and making all kinds of scary noises outside the car while Emilia panicked inside.
“Please, Mommy; please, wake up! I think we’re drowning, Mommy. I think we’re…please, wake up.”
But her mother didn’t wake up. Emilia whimpered and held her tightly as the water slowly filled the cabin of the car. She cried and tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Emilia kicked and screamed as her clothes were soaked, and soon, she could barely keep her head above water.
THREE WEEKS LATER
“Girl fourteen, acute cardiac arrest.”
I was running behind the stretcher as I heard the paramedic give the message to the nurse in the ER. I don’t know if it was hearing him say the words that made me finally break down and cry, or if it was the sight of them rushing my daughter down the hallway, asking me to stay back, that did it to me.
I leaned forward, hands resting on my knees, still panting, when Jean came out to the waiting room and saw me. We hadn’t seen each other for weeks, and as her eyes fell on me, I started crying even harder.
She rushed to me, grabbed me in her arms, and helped me sit down. It wasn’t an easy thing to do with a big guy who’s six-foot-eight and weighs more than two hundred and thirty pounds. Especially not for a small woman like Jean. But Jean was a lot stronger than you’d think. She spoke with a shivering voice.
“What happened? I saw them rush someone down to surgery. It looked like… Was that Josie?”
I nodded, gasping for air. I could hardly get the words across my lips and struggled to tell her.
“Sh-she fell. They have an important volleyball game next week. She had just been out running, then came back into the yard where I was sitting, then she just fell. It was
like she deflated. I…I don’t understand. I…I…she wasn’t breathing; she was completely gone. There was no pulse or anything, Jean; she was just lifeless. I frantically performed CPR. I was so scared; you have no idea. But I got her heart beating again while my dad called for help. The paramedics came and rushed her into the ambulance…her heart kept shutting down, they said, and they barely managed to keep her alive.” I looked into Jean’s eyes. They were filled with worry and fear. She was breathing heavily. Jean cared for my daughter almost as much as I did. I continued, my voice cracking:
“What’s happening to her? She was fine this morning, and then she said she’d…go for a run…and now this? What’s happening to my baby?”
Jean grabbed my hands in hers, and I leaned my head on her shoulder. I could tell she was moved too. Jean was a nurse at the ER, but she was also my neighbor, and we had been very close until recently. Until my wife, Camille, woke up from her brain-injury coma due to an overdose three years ago, Jean had been the one taking care of us all. But now that my wife was better and was awake, Jean had pulled away. Maybe because we had kissed, maybe because we had decided to start dating the moment before Camille awoke.