October 1988, New York

"Fucking New York roads!"

Zoey slammed her foot on the brakes and halted her car with a loud screech a few inches before she hit the car in the front. She glared at the line in front of her, her urgency making her fingers clutch the wheel in a death grip, though she knew there was little she could do while she waited for the traffic light to turn green. Her wild eyes snapped up to the rearview mirror. "Did that punk hurt you, Cally?"

The woman sprawled on the back seats shifted ever so slightly at the mention of her name. Her head turned slowly to look at the back of the driver's seat, speaking no words. She didn't have the energy. Her breath came out in a soft wheeze and she glanced down at the two bullet wounds still slowly bleeding out on her upper torso, not making the effort to check on the third one on her stomach. She knew it was bleeding as well. She could feel it very vividly. The woman behind the wheel cursed under her breath when she noticed the damage on her friend. "I'm so sorry, Cally. I should have helped you..."

The traffic light turned green and Cally had to grab onto the seat with what little strength she had left in her to not fall over from Zoey's abrupt start. She struggled to catch her breath and form a few words. "I...would never...ask...you to...do that."

"I would have done it either way if I knew you were so weakened! When was the last time you ate anything?!" Zoey yelled over the car horns that screeched at her as she maneuvered between the cars. After a few seconds of not receiving any answer from her companion, a whole new level of worry shone in her eyes as they moved to the rearview mirror. To her horror, the other woman was staring out of the car window with a guilty look on her face. Zoey's voice raised in volume without her meaning to. "Callynthera?!"

"I...stopped eating... since that man spoke on TV." she whispered, tilting her head back in an effort to ease the pain each breath caused her.

"Jesus Christ, that was three months ago!" Zoey barely avoided crashing on a car to her left in her frenzied state. "Are you trying to starve to death?! Why in the world would you stop eating?!"

Callynthera slid down the back of the seat, unable to hold herself upright anymore, the exhaustion forcing her body to lie down across the backseat. "You...said I...should be careful..."

"Yes, because the police would start looking, but I never meant for you to stop eating altogether!" her companion interrupted her, turning sharply to the left and taking the road that would lead the two straight back to her apartment.

"I didn't want to risk putting you in danger..." she whispered, her gaze lowering shamefully to the car floor. Zoey's eyes glanced at the other woman through the rearview mirror once more, the worry reflecting off of them being replaced by a mixture of sadness and pity. Silence settled in the car, the only sounds coming from the cars around it and the heavy breathing of the injured woman.

Zoey's grip on the wheel tightened, a sigh making her shoulders fall. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have overreacted and put such a burden on you that day. It's my fault you're suffering like this now-"

The car moved suddenly to the right side of the road, narrowly missing a lamp post. Zoey gritted her teeth and yelled out of the driver's window at the driver next to her. "Get the hell out of the road and take the freaking bus if you're going to drive like a retarded old hag, you prick! Fuck you, asshole!" Turning her attention back on the road ahead, she ran her hand through her hair, addressing Callynthera once more. "I fucked everything up for you..."

"You wanted to keep your family safe." the other woman stated, wincing when pain shot through her nerves due to her trying to shuffle into a more comfortable position across the backseats. She had to put extra effort into voicing out her next words. "How I coped with that is the reason for my injuries. It's not your fault."

Zoey shook her head, refusing to believe her friend. "It is. That's why I'm going to fix it...We're moving out."


"I know it's not ideal for you, but having you stay in a city as crowded and busy as New York any longer will only make things worse for you. I've been thinking about moving out for a long time and it was a big mistake not to act upon it earlier. Hell, had I made the decision sooner, I wouldn't have to worry about anyone finding out about you in the first place."

"But-" A grunt of pain rose to her throat, making her regret trying to reach out to the driver's seat. "But, this town is your home-"

"I'd rather lose a home, which never felt so homey, to begin with than lose you." Callynthera fell silent after that, giving up on trying to convince her friend to change her mind. Despite her immense guilt for being the reason her family was moving out, she couldn't ignore a small part of her that was relieved with that decision. Zoey was right, this town was far too big and crowded for her to live in safely. Deep down she had known, even before her friend had voiced her concerns about being compromised, that it was a matter of time before somebody started to notice.

And then, the situation would be much worse than now.

"Besides, I've been searching around ever since I first came up with the idea. I just need to do a few phone calls, pack some things and we'll be ready to go tonight."

"So soon...?" she muttered in disbelief, letting her body fall completely limp against the backseats as the last remnants of strength left her. Her wounds were using up everything she had in an attempt to heal quickly in her weakened state.

Zoey parked the car right outside the apartment block her flat was in. Turning off the car engine, she turned on her seat to fully face the other woman. Callynthera almost whined in sorrow at the sight of her disheveled friend, panting and wide-eyed from the worry she was the cause of. Full lips sucked in a deep calming breath, that hardly helped, before answering. "The sooner the better, sweetie. For your own good."

Seeing Callynthera didn't protest any further, she turned and exited the car. She was about to close the door when the other's next question had her pausing all movement. "What about Liliana?"

Caramel fingers squeezed the car door, golden-brown eyes staring down instead of meeting forest-green ones. The silence between the two women was thick but, thankfully, brief. Zoey straightened her shoulders with newfound determination and finally looked up at her friend. Her free hand came to gently rest on the other's upper arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze, hiding how much she could use one as well. "It's going to be okay, Cally. I promise."

The softness in her tone soothed Callynthera enough for her to manage a small genuine smile, despite the pain. That was all Zoey needed as she finally left the car and made her way into the building, leaving her friend to rest in the backseat with just the light from a nearby lamp post illuminating her figure in the darkness of the night. Her eyes, dulled by her low energy, glanced at her fingers resting on the wound in her stomach, seeing a vivid blue color staining the marshmallow-colored skin. There was so much of it, on her body, on the car seats and the floor, having already dried up. She briefly wondered if Zoey would be mad about having to clean up her mess. She experimentally pressed her fingers against the closest wound and hissed dangerously at the excruciating pain that followed. Apparently, her body had still a long way to go before it could completely heal.

Abandoning the self-experimentation, she shifted her body as much as possible to get comfortable and laid there. She calmed down her breathing to ease the ache she felt in her lungs with each inhale. Her muscles followed next. Lastly, she let her eyelids drop, and with that, she blocked the whole world out of her head. Every sound, every smell, and thought connecting her to the world was pushed away and replaced by emptiness and peace. Her mind cleared to the point where she couldn't feel her body, the flesh tying her to the Earth. This was as close to sleep as she could get. And it had been a long time since she had done even this.

The first thing she realized when she came around was the car moving. One by one, her senses woke up with her. She could smell Zoey behind the wheel, driving them somewhere far from town, judging by the clear as day engine sound filling the car. She guessed they were close to the state's border. Light goosebumps spread across the skin of her arms and her ears picked the singing of birds in the distance. It was early in the morning. Strangely enough, she felt rather cold all over her body. Except for her feet.

Finally opening her eyes, she was met with the back of the driver's seat, some of Zoey's chocolate brown rasta locks peeking from the sides. The sky from the windscreen was a faded light blue adorned with pink hues, the moon's silhouette still visible between the clouds. Callynthera glanced at the other side of the car where her feet were kept warm and smiled.

Her feet were resting on the small legs of a six-year-old girl with pecan brown skin and long bronze brown curls, who was currently wrapped in a navy blue blanket and laying her head against the sidecar door, fast asleep. Her soft features were relaxed in a peaceful expression, while her body heat kept Callynthera's feet warm and comfortable. But the woman didn't want to bother the girl and so she slowly slid them out of her small lap.

With that out of the way, Callynthera turned her attention to her injuries. The wounds were now completely dry of blood as if her body had been drained from it, the assaulted flesh standing out against her bloodstained clothing. On closer inspection, a few strings of skin could be visible growing over the bullet holes, slowly beginning the process of tying up the torn skin. Wondering how far from a complete recovery she was, the woman flexed her abs. No pain. She took in a long breath next. Again nothing. Good signs, both of them. Lastly, she tried twisting her torso so she could lay on her back instead of her side. She immediately regretted it. She had to bite down a hiss and squeeze her eyes shut when the movement caused a couple of the skin strings to snap. Still, a long way to go, it seemed.

"Aunt Cally..." Her head snapped to the side, a sweet smile taking over her features. She found sleepy hazel eyes staring at her. "Hey, Lilly."

"Hi..." the girl mumbled, rubbing a hand on her eyes in an attempt to get rid of her sleepiness. "Are you feeling better?"

"Yeah, a little. Don't you want to sleep a little longer? It's too early." Liliana mustered a small nod and turned in her seat, away from Callynthera. The redhead stared at the small back in confusion. "Don't you want to sleep beside me?"

The brunette turned her head back to address her. "Mom said I shouldn't because you are in pain."

"We'll be careful." she responded, shaking her head with a smile. Shifting her legs to the side, she slowly raised her hand and motioned for Liliana. "Come here."

The girl returned the smile and eagerly crawled where her aunt instructed her. Laying in the space between the back of the seats and the woman's legs, she used Callynthera's hip as a pillow and hugged the rest of the leg for extra warmth. The woman stretched her arm as far as possible and managed to grab the bunched-up blanket around the girl's midsection, covering her with it. After that, she proceeded to rub gentle circles on Liliana's back, relinquishing the fuzzy feeling the six-year-old gave her every time. Within a couple of minutes, the little one was fast asleep once again.

"Just because I'm driving doesn't mean I can't hear you." spoke up Zoey, keeping her tone low enough to be heard and not wake up her daughter.

"I've hugged her while injured before. I'll be fine." she reassured, moving her hand to the child's shoulder, rubbing her thumb against it. She could feel Zoey staring worriedly at her through the rearview mirror, unconvinced. Eventually, though, she shrugged it off, accepting the fact both of her passengers could use each other's comfort for their respective reasons. Frankly, some of that comfort would have helped her as well, if she wasn't the one driving. "Just make sure your injuries don't take any more damage until we reach the town."

"When will that be?"

"I'm guessing around early noon." Callynthera nodded and shifted her gaze to the nearest window, watching the trees passing by. They were driving through a forest, which meant they must have left New York a while ago. The shape of the moon was barely visible in the sky, the sunlight having grown brighter than before. She let out a breath, focusing on the small, warm body resting on her legs. The feeling of Liliana's soft heartbeat against her skin was the most calming thing she could have asked for at the time.


"Hm?" The brunette glanced at her friend through the rearview mirror, seeing the look of sudden realization on her face. "Where are we going?"

Zoey turned her eyes back on the road. "To what I hope will be the safe home you need. It's a small town in Maine, Derry."

The redhead raised an eyebrow. "I thought small towns and villages were off-limits."

"Well, not this one. I made some extra research and it turns out the place didn't have a single crime report in years."

She frowned. "Isn't that a bad thing?"

"Not for you." Zoey replied. "There's no place on the planet that has zero crime reports for such a long time. It's just not possible. Which means, whatever happens in that town, doesn't attract any attention. The police department probably doesn't bother doing its job. You will move around freely and no one will care."

Callynthera hesitated to feel grateful. Of course, it sounded like the ideal place for her, but the feeling she was getting was anything but relieved.

"And you two?" Zoey saw Callynthera in the rearview mirror, glancing concerningly between her and the child sleeping on her legs. She turned her gaze back to the road and sighed. "I had my doubts about this town, at first. If the people there tend to turn a blind eye to everything, then we might have a hard time adjusting. But, with you around, I can be at ease. Everything will be fine."

The injured woman glanced at the child one more time and laid her head down on her crossed arms. She knew Zoey was right and that she'd do everything in her power to keep the two safe. The bad feeling remained though.

This work is dedicated to The Lost Atelier, who helped to make this story a reality. If you like IT stories, make sure to check her fanfic 'Beautiful Fear'. Definitely a must-read!

If you enjoyed the first chapter, please consider leaving a review with your thoughts. If you didn't, let me know how and what I should improve for future chapters.

Until next time!