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[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/yemU1EE.jpg]] [font roman His answer only seemed to generate an entirely new wave of questions inside her head. Running away? He was a lot older than her and clearly seemed a little content at least, why would someone like him be running away? She didn't exactly want to ask in fear of angering him or making him overly uncomfortable, but her facial expression seemed to betray her almost completely as she stared puzzledly at him.
[#FFB6C1 [b "Right."]] She quietly mumbled before sinking into her seat and looking away. She was almost obsessively running his answer through her mind over and over again trying to decipher exactly what he meant. She wanted to be safe - not sorry - and she didn't exactly want to be riding with a person who was running away from something [i major]. But isn't that what's doing right now? Chloe just subtly groaned to herself at her own hypocrisy.
[#FFB6C1 [b "Yeah, I get what you mean. I - um - I'm thankful then that it was you who picked me instead of someone else. I'm not exactly in the mood to be featured on Crime Watch Daily... just yet."]] She joked with a suppressed giggle and a genuine smile. Chloe was slowly starting to ease into him now - genuinely this time. She didn't exactly feel safe or comfortable just yet, but there was no reason to be afraid or terrified for her own safety or anything.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/JJSRXFM.jpg]] The small moment of silence afterwards made her feel a bit edgy and uncomfortable, and Chloe would notably shift in her seat before stuttering. [#FFB6C1 [b "Don't you need to fill up or anything? It's just - It's just going to be a long journey."]] She didn't even know how much gas was left in the tank or if Marius had recently filled up - just the need for conversation and breaking the silence was too strong for Chloe to resist.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/U9Taglc.gif]] [center[font "Times New Roman" Of course she was curious. She was in a car with a total stranger, and Santa Monica [i was] a long way to go. He considered his words carefully. Marius was a lot of things, but he wasn't a liar. However the blunt truth at the moment probably wasn't the best option.
[b [#910f0f "Same as you, Princess."]] he decided, gripping the wheels bit tighter. [b [#910f0f "I need a new start. Running away, I guess you could call it. Looking for something."]] And hoping like hell that he didn't find it. Them.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/qeFkK5u.gif]] [b [#910f0f "I stopped to pick you up because I know what people can be like. I wanted you to at least have a safe way to get where you're going."]] That was a definite truth. He was always worried about men like Henry picking up girls like Chloe, and it was always more likely than they younger ones thought. Maybe he wasn't a perfect person, but at least he wasn't Henry. He had to tell himself that a lot.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/yemU1EE.jpg]] [font roman [#FFB6C1 [b "... Marius..."]] She repeated softly beneath her breath. No last name and that struck her as a little susceptible, but they were both still technically strangers to each other, and Chloe could sort of understand his reluctance.
She was still really queasy and apprehensive about this entire thing. Before, running away with some random man was Chloe's dream - the dream of an extremely naive and inexperienced girl with no prior knowledge of the outside world. Everything those overbearing stranger-danger PSAs used to preach in middle school, almost made sense now. She was undoubtfully distracted again until the question about smoking was asked.
[#FFB6C1 [b "Not really."]] She tried once after her father had coerced her into a small puff, and never tried again ever since. She'd much rather not suffocate herself with some random stranger, at least not yet. She very quietly wondered if that time would ever come...
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/JJSRXFM.jpg]] [font roman Now the inevitable question was coming, Chloe just had to ask. If they were going to spend more than fifty-hours together in this cramped-up car, then Marius could at least tell her a few things about himself. [#FFB6C1 [b "So... what exactly are you doing out here? I mean, like, out on the road. Most people don't just pick random girls off the side of the highway... I mean, girls like me. Or they do but..."]] Curse her social-awkwardness and her undeniable callowness.
After that small fiasco, the question didn't really matter to Chloe anymore - anything to cover up those reddened cheeks and tuts of embarrassment and humiliation. [#FFB6C1 [b "Nevermind, forget I said anything."]] She seriously doubted that, though...
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/U9Taglc.gif]] [center[font "Times New Roman" [b [#910f0f "Marius."]] He offered no last name, but he took note of hers in the back of his head, in case he ever needed it. He pulled into the next lane to avoid the exit and settled back a bit. With how jumpy she was, Chloe almost reminded him of Margot.
He had taken his little sister on all kinds of trips before, but the memory made him feel a little bit empty. It didn't register on his face beside a twitch of the mouth, and his tongue piercing clicked against his teeth anxiously. Fingers twitched on the steering wheel lightly, tapping against the leather, and he let his window open a crack so he could stick a cigarette between his teeth and light it.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/qeFkK5u.gif]] [b [#910f0f "You smoke, Princess?"]] He asked curiously, quirking a brow as he chanced a look over at her. Probably not. She seemed like a good kid, but he thought it was always better to offer than to leave someone in the middle of a nic fit on his account. He took a long drag and blew it out toward the window, almost like a deep sigh. At least this would soothe the nerves from thinking about his sisters.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/yemU1EE.jpg]] [font roman Chloe spent a lot of time on her own and never really had the chance to interact with anyone else that wasn't her stuffed animals or drunken dad. She was more than inexperienced with talking to strangers and that was clearly showing in the way she spoke to this man.
She merely muttered at his response and stared down into the road with nothing specific on her mind anymore. She was beginning to relax, especially with the radio playing in the background, and Chloe rested her head against the car seat. There was still an underlining feeling of fearfulness and dread, but worrying about that now would just make her feel worse than before.
[#FFB6C1 [b "Sorry. I'm just a little on edge."]] She'd quietly apologise while slowly turning her head to regretfully look at him. She was still struggling to maintain eye contact, but at least she was trying. He seemed nice enough, at least for the moment, and Chloe didn't want to ruin that at all with her attitude and social ineptness.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/JJSRXFM.jpg]] [font roman The small joke about [i Ted Bundy] made her slightly uncomfortable and caused a few disturbing scenarios to run through her head, but Chloe would just awkwardly giggle and shrug her shoulders lightly. [#FFB6C1 [b "I hope not."]] Was all she could really respond with before she turned away to stare at the array of cars zooming past them in the opposite direction. He caught her lie and Chloe cringed at herself for her terrible acting skills... She was never the best in theatre class...
[#FFB6C1 [b "Uh. My name is Chloe, by the way. Chloe Lyle..."]] He didn't ask for her name just yet, and in a way, Chloe immediately regretted revealing who she was, but introductions were sorta inevitable at this point and she just wanted to get them out of the way.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/U9Taglc.gif]] [center[font "Times New Roman" [b [#910f0f "Don't get your panties in a bunch, Princess. In case you can't tell by the motion of the car, we're already on the way."]] he smirked, leaning back a bit into his seat as they picked up speed. She was kind of cute, attitude aside. He guessed no one had taught her to be particularly nice to the weird strangers that give her rides places.
[b [#910f0f "You don't have to answer my questions, kid, I'm just curious. I'm not gonna Ted Bundy you or anything. Just making conversation with the stranger in my car."]] But regardless, he reached over and turned the media system on, putting his playlist on the speakers. Not so loud as to offend the princesses delicate sensibilities.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/qeFkK5u.gif]] Marius knew she was lying. She didn't have family or anything in Santa Monica, she was a bad liar and she was doing it through her teeth. He didn't take it to heart, though. Sometimes when you're that young, telling the truth seems harder than lying, even though you don't know the consequences of the lies. He used to be like that, so he wasn't going to push her for answers. Not real ones, anyway.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/yemU1EE.jpg]] [font roman The expression of humour on the man's face made Chloe feel slightly insecure about herself - and not in the appearance kind of way. She knew she was coming off as some nervy immature child running away from something... She merely grumbled to herself and pushed those thoughts away, before opening the car door and slowly getting inside. She couldn't believe she was actually doing this...
[#FFB6C1 [b "Thanks, I guess."]] She could only quietly say as soon as adjusted herself comfortably in her seat. She kept her eyes averted from him and stared down into the highway. She didn't want to maintain any kind of eye contact or even really get to know this person. Her mind was situated on one single goal - getting the [i fuck] outta here.
But was using this man for that really going to help? Chloe felt like she was shoving herself into some unnecessary danger and nothing had even happened yet. She propped her arm on the car door and leaned her head against her hand as the man spoke to her. The question caused her stomach to drop slightly...
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/JJSRXFM.jpg]] [font roman [#FFB6C1 [b "... Just some family business. Gotta lot of people in... Santa Monica. Didn't have any money, though. So..."]] She lied while still averting her gaze and staring at anything that wasn't him. She was starting to feel the come-down from her euphoric high from earlier - and Chloe just felt really nauseous now. [#FFB6C1 [b "Can we just go? I don't wanna be here any longer."]] Her tone was less demanding and more worried about something currently unknown. She just wanted to leave everything behind...
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/U9Taglc.gif]] [center[font "Times New Roman" Marius almost could have laughed at how nervous this little girl seemed to be. She looked like she thought he was going to eat her... Smart kid. A single brow cocked upward when he heard the destination, but his mind was already made up. He reached across to unlock the door for her and popped it open.
[b [#910f0f "Sure thing, get in."]]
Going from Maine all the way to California was a long way, but if he was going to be travelling anyhow he figured he might as well go somewhere he's never been. He settled back into his own seat while she climbed in, and kept his expression friendly and open. [b [#910f0f "Something waiting for you in Santa Monica?"]]
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/qeFkK5u.gif]] He was curious. Usually girls her age had an idea of where they wanted to go, but nothing so specific, so he wanted to know the reason. Once she was in and buckled, he put the window up and turned the heater on for her, pulling back out onto the highway to start their journey. Hopefully it would be one she didn't regret... And hopefully his past didn't present too many troubles for her along the way.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/yemU1EE.jpg]] [font roman Before this man had pulled up beside her, about fifteen cars had already rolled past, completely ignorant to Chloe standing on the side with her thumb hopelessly stuck out. [i Fucking assholes...] She was cathartic and in a state of pure euphoria - but she was also [i fucking] freezing. Clare always had the worst weather ever - reason number thirty-six to leave this hellhole.
Chloe hopped from foot-to-foot trying to regain some sense of warmth until a single car rolled up in front of her. [i Finally...]
Her arms hugged close to her sweater-clad body and she anxiously stared at the car, before the windows were rolled down to reveal the driver. She was a little nervous, this wasn't exactly something she'd do all the time, and the dangers of hitchhiking had finally started to settle horribly in her mind when the driver's features were in-view.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/JJSRXFM.jpg]] [font roman A man leaned over to the window to meet her - a very intimidating-looking man, and someone Chloe probably would've usually avoided in any normal situation. She swallowed hard and nibbled on her lips with blatant worry, readjusting the backpack weighing her down as a minor attempt to appear as casual as possible, and cautiously leaned towards the window to meet him face-to-face.
[#FFB6C1 [b "Um..."]] She began - clearly nervous and unsure about this encounter. She attempted to push all that away, though. She really wanted this more than anything... [#FFB6C1 [b "I'm headed out West - Santa Monica? I'd... appreciate the ride?"]] Was she actually serious about this? This man was a complete and utter [i stranger], and yet, the question had already been asked and all Chloe needed was a single answer - [i Yes.]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/U9Taglc.gif]] [center[font "Times New Roman" In Mariuses eyes, home was a relative term. And relative to him? The concept of home was a bunch of bullshit. He had been moving around so long that he hardly remembered a time when he [i wasn't] on the road. This was just another long-ass string of that. Icy blue eyes looked at himself in the mirror of the gas station bathroom, yawning a little bit. He'd been up for a while, and it was starting to show. It almost suited him, but he figured he'd better stop for a night at least.
This little shithole of a town didn't have much to offer. A hot waitress at a run-down restaurant and a small motel... At least it was enough to sustain him for the night. He didn't like sleeping in motels, it always reminded him of being with his mother, but he was able to shrug the feeling off enough to sleep.
[i A scream rose up through the dark as Marius slowly came back to himself. He could see someone laying at the bottom of the stairs, blood slowly starting to pool, and the screaming was coming from a woman beside him. Who was that again? He was having trouble remembering. Why wouldn't she just fucking [b stop screaming]!?]
4AM. He'd woken up in a cold sweat, shaking so hard he thought he might puke.
By the time morning rolled around, he had smoked his way through three cigarettes, and was all packed up for checkout, and pulling back out onto the highway. He was going to leave the rough night behind him, and set out on the road.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/qeFkK5u.gif]]Once he got toward the outskirts of town, near the tree line, he saw something that surprised him, and he turned the radio down just a bit to focus. It was a girl, a young one, couldn't be too many years older than legal... with her thumb stuck out, trying to hitch a ride. Now [i that] was interesting. He pulled up beside her and leaned over her the seat to speak to her.
[b [#910f0f "Where ya heading, Princess?"]]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/yemU1EE.jpg]] [font roman [i Clare]... Chloe had spent the majority of her life within the smalltown of absolutely nothing, alongside her thoughtless parents who cared about nothing but themselves - her father spent more time nursing whiskey bottles than caring for Chloe, and her mother was always out getting her tail tugged by some sleazy rich businessman. Chloe was doomed from the start...
School wasn't an easy escape for her, unlike for some other people. Everyone had found their groups and built up their friendships, and Chloe was left behind - the girl who had no one. She had spent countless recesses alone in the bathroom stalls, with only her sandwiches and the sound of laughter in the next stall over for company. She watched the other friendship circles all the time, and envied the close-knit friendships they had all built without her. She just wanted someone to actually care for once.
When her parents both decided to leave for the night and practically abandon her for nearly two weeks - the final straw had been snapped and she had, had more than enough of this mental torment. The next few days were of her packing her bags full of clothes and the essentials for life on the road - and a single pistol. She was going to leave Clare and everybody behind - for good. Her new life was just about to begin and Chloe was going to love every single minute...
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/JJSRXFM.jpg]] [font roman [i Santa Monica]... the place of her dreams. Since seeing the Californian coastal city advertised on the television when she was twelve, Chloe had dreamt every single night about venturing there and traversing the sandy beaches, hand-in-hand with someone who actually gave a damn about her. Countless days of soaking up the Californian rays, endless nights of fun and laughter, cotton-candy smiles and vanilla-flavoured kisses, Chloe wanted everything to be perfect - hoped everything would be perfect.
She stood on the outskirts of Clare and stared wistfully at the now tiny town, standing pathetically amongst a vast forest stretching as far as the eye-could-see. She was never going to come back... and she loved that feeling more than anything. She felt invincible right now - nothing could hurt her. She was free and away from the crushing weight of the town's emptiness...
She was determined. She was brave. She was ready. Standing on the edge of the highway leading out into the great big world where all her dreams would come true...
[#FFB6C1[i [b Goodbye, Clare.]]]
[#FFB6C1 [i [b Here I come, Santa Monica.]]]
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