Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. James Patterson does. And all songs mentioned don't belong to me. In short, all rights belong to their respective owners.
Claimer: I own the plot and story.
Where am I supposed to sleep? I thought to myself, as I sat down on the sidewalk. Even though the hot, summer, Arizona sun had set long ago, I was breathing heavily, exhausted from six hours of running. Despite my tiredness, solidarity, and lack of supplies, I had no regrets thus far.
I made my decision yesterday, actually. I couldn't take it anymore. That was it. I was leaving, and not looking back.
I pictured Jeb's, my adoptive father's, expression of bland annoyance as I stubbed my toe on the refrigerator door and dropped a ceramic plate, instantly shattering it. I heard Jeb's irritated snarl, followed by feeling a sudden spark of pain in the back of my head. Jeb's bottle of wine clattered to the floor behind me as I stumbled forwards, wincing and rubbing my head.
When Jeb's cackle reached my ears, something inside of me broke. I picked up the bottle and smashed it against the ground, sending glass shards everywhere. After storming into my room and locking the door, I made my choice.
That wasn't the first time he'd thrown something at me, but it would be the last. I wasn't going to sit back powerlessly, a mere pawn in his life, any longer.
The next day, this afternoon, I left. I ran, out of sight, out of mind. I didn't know where I was going, just anywhere but Phoenix.
Even though taking action for once, with a sense of purpose, felt liberating, I couldn't pretend everything was perfect. I had nothing but a backpack with a change of clothes and a water bottle. No food, no supplies, no means of communication.
Regardless of the challenges I'd have to face, alone, over the next few days, the first task at hand was to find shelter for the night. Carelessly, I ended up in a suburban neighborhood outside the city with no half-decent places to sleep outside. Everything was pretty much either houses, roads, or buildings.
I looked around the neighborhood, and saw nothing. Besides inhabited houses, there was nowhere to sleep. Not even a cluster of trees or anything.
I really should've thought this out beforehand, I thought. Why couldn't I have found a place with more trees and bushes to hide in?
Anyways, there was nothing I could do about it now. I was too tired to warm up, stretch, and run again, and there was nothing but houses as far as I could see.
As my eyes glazed over the cul-de-sac at the neighborhood's far end, I noticed a manhole cover in the center of the asphalt. I assumed it led to a sewer, which was just about my only option at this point. Of course it wasn't ideal, but I couldn't think of any potential place to sleep remotely close to as protected as a sewer at this point.
I painstakingly walked over to the cover and lifted it off. It was heavy, and I was short on energy at the moment, but I managed to slide it off. A rusty ladder was attached to the wall, and I didn't see any other way of getting down, so I carefully set my feet on the ladder. After bracing my nose for the worst, I gripped the bar at the top and started on my way down.
Three steps down, I heard a noise below me. I froze, my veins turning to ice. The noise became a series of footsteps drawing closer to me. My brain went into overdrive, thinking everything except, get out of here!
"Who are you?" a masculine voice whispered below me. I took a deep breath, knowing I had to act a whole lot more confident than I was.
"Max. You?" I asked firmly. Without a response, the figure moved directly below me. When I felt the ladder shake slightly, presumably from the mystery person below me, I hastily scrambled back up the ladder. I jumped up onto the street and walked several feet from the manhole, ready to fight if I needed to.
Moments later, a mop of black hair emerged from the sewer. When the person climbed onto the street, I got a good look at him for the first time.
He was pretty tall, I guess; he had to have been at least six feet. I wasn't the best at gleaning information from first glances, but he looked about my age, maybe a little older, and was wearing a black leather jacket and black jeans. His black hair, dark brown eyes, and chiseled features made him seem kind of attractive.
"Fang Walker," he said, holding out his hand. I stared at it until he dropped it. I mean, nobody went for formal introductions after they were scared out of their skin in a freaking sewer.
"What are you doing inside of a sewer?" I asked, wasting no time in getting to the point. If he wanted to fight me, I wasn't going to get caught in a long, meaningless conversation.
"My foster parents pushed me over the edge. I ran away three weeks ago," he explained. "I needed a place to sleep."
I stared at him in disbelief. "Same."
He raised his eyebrows. "Really?"
I nodded. After a long, awkward silence, I asked him, "So, where did you run from?"
"Tucson. I ran away this morning. I've only waited until now because my foster parents threatened to call the police on me," I said.
"I've been gone three weeks. My parents would never bother looking for me, much less involving the authorities. I stayed to protect my little sister, Angel. She's ten now, so I think she'll be fine as long as she's careful. Angel knows how to act obedient, and she's strong as well. Trust me, she's the strongest little kid out there. And even if she isn't up to it, she can stay a friend's house."
"Did you have any friends back in Phoenix?"
"Yeah. My best friend was this guy named Iggy. He had a little brother, Gazzy. Iggy's girlfriend, Ella, was also one of my good friends. She has a teenage sister named Nudge."
"Really? All these people were your friends?" I asked. Fang nodded. "Why'd you run away then?"
Fang shifted from foot to foot. "I got fed up with my foster parents. My dad in particular. They didn't pay me much attention, but they were nasty when they did."
"Do your friends know that you left?"
Fang nodded, "I told them to just go on like normal. They wouldn't listen to me, but they couldn't stop me from leaving either. I didn't want to intrude on their lives too much, but right before I ran away, Ella gave me her phone number in case I needed something."
"That sounds good. If I had a crew of friends like that, I'd be living with one of them now," I said. "Just saying."
"No, I understand. But all of my friends' parents did so much for me when I was living there, and I didn't want to burden them worse. They have jobs and families."
"You look hungry," Fang noticed. "I have a can of beans in my backpack, want some?"
I thought about it for a minute. On one hand, Fang seemed genuine and sincere. It looked like he wanted to help, and I definitely could've used some food. On the other hand, I was hesitant to trust someone I met less than ten minutes ago. I eventually decided my hunger outweighed my distrust.
"Sure," I said. Fang put his backpack down and fished out a can from the bottom of it. After using a knife to cut the lid off, he handed it to me.
"Sorry I don't have any utensils," he said, "but I promise the can is clean, if you want to pour the beans into your mouth."
"It's fine," I said. "Thanks a ton, Fang."
He shrugged. "No problem. I was gonna get some more food tomorrow, anyways." For some reason, hearing him talk about tomorrow bothered me a little. Even though I didn't fully trust him, I wanted to get to know Fang better.
I inhaled the beans within seconds and dropped the can in my backpack.
"Max, is that right?" Fang asked.
"Yeah. My full name is Maximum Ride."
"That's a cool name. Did you give it to yourself?"
"Thanks, and yes," I said.
"So I'm dealing with the self-proclaimed Maximum Ride here. Why'd you run away?" he asked me, a hint of a smile tugging at his lips.
"Abuse. Same as you."
"Where are you going next from here?" I asked him.
"I'm not sure yet. Just anywhere but Phoenix right now. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful city with great people, but getting a fresh start is the whole reason I ran away, you know? I wanted a new beginning in life."
"Same here, except I just left today. How has it been so far?"
Fang's face fell. "Pretty rough. Things have been tougher alone than I thought they'd be, but I'm managing," he said. He was lonely, too? I refused to think about the possibility of joining Fang on the run. It was a risky but potentially rewarding
As if reading my mind, Fang said, "I was thinking…since we're both on the run with nothing to lose, what do you think of traveling together? We'll have a better chance of surviving, it'll be more fun than being alone, and I can help you stay hidden."
He seemed nice, and I had nothing to lose, but could I really join Fang? He didn't come across as suspicious in the least, but I just met him. I would be placing far too much trust in a stranger if I agreed to his offer. But what choice did I have? I wouldn't last long at all on my own.
"I'll think about it," I told him. "I'm really not sure yet."
If Fang was feeling hurt, he masked it well. "That's fine. I just thought I'd put it out there."
"I'm glad you did. Are you gonna sleep now, or what?"
"I was going to sleep fifteen minutes ago, but you interrupted me."
I rolled my eyes. "Whatever. Just hurry up and head back down, since I'm getting tired too."
Fang obliged and descended the ladder. I followed several feet behind him, taking a leap of faith in trusting him in a dark, enclosed space. I wasn't worried, though, if I was awake-I could've taken him in a fight within several minutes at most. He didn't look weak at all, but I was a skilled fighter. I was probably quicker, more agile, and had more fighting knowledge than him.
As I settled into a comfortable spot, at least as comfortable as sewers got, I couldn't stop thinking about Fang's offer. Was it worth it to join him? If I were him, why would I want a random girl I just met to join me?
Well, he was definitely lonely. If I were him, alone for three weeks after living with friends his whole life, I would've been feeling awfully lonely too.
And if he wanted to harm me, what could he possibly have wanted? I had no money, no supplies, and no ransom value. I doubted he wanted my body either; there was no way he was camping out in a sewer and waiting for girls to pass by. I wasn't the cutest girl out there, far from it in fact, and with his looks alone Fang could've had any girl he wanted.
Before I could talk myself out of it, I spoke up. "Fang?" I asked. There was no backing down now.
"Yeah?" he replied, his voice echoing throughout the narrow chamber.
"I've made up my mind."
"I'm joining you, if you'll still let me."
Even though we were in complete darkness, I could picture Fang smiling. "Of course. Listen, I have some money saved up from working at the coffee shop back in Phoenix. We can get some basic supplies for you tomorrow in town."
"The police are looking for me. I can't go into town so close to Tucson," I pointed out.
"I'll go, then. Nobody's after me."
For the first time in my life, I felt a spark of hope. I had a friend for once. Sure, I just met him, but I knew someone cared about me.
With Fang lying next to me, I fell asleep, with the first true smile I've smiled in my life on my face.
There is minor language, and minor references to rape, but that's about it. Anyone 12 or over should be just fine reading this. In other words, this is a mild T.
For the most part: Odd-numbered chapters will be from Max's POV, and even-numbered chapters will be from Fang's POV. If there are any changes, I'll be sure to mention them.
Question of the Chapter: Would you trust Fang if you were in Max's place?
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