One more stop. Then home.
Jack repeated Bobby's words in his head as they drove silently, the radio playing just loudly enough to avoid awkward silence. He stared at the window, watching street after street pass. He had no idea where they were headed and Bobby hadn't offered much of a hint.
Not that he cared.
One more stop. Then home.
'Home'. Jack thought about the word. What exactly did home mean?
He had been in such a mixed handful of houses, apartments, and group homes in the past year and a half that he didn't know exactly how to define it. He briefly recalled one chain-smoking lady that had a stained needlepoint pillow on her couch with the phrase 'home is where the heart is'. He had seen this phrase before, and also didn't know what it meant. Whose heart? And was it like a real heart? A beating heart? Or someone dead's heart? There had been a picture of a heart on the pillow. Maybe that was the heart.
Lots of people used the word 'home' so vaguely. It was more like an expression.
'This is your new home', Anthony had told him when he left him at the Mercer's house. He'd also said that to him many other times before. New home. Last home. That home. Yeah. Right.
He thought about his first night in the Mercer house, and the anxiety he felt. It was a little better now, or at least different. That anxiety wasn't all the time - but it still wasn't what he would define as home. Then again, he had already admitted to himself that he didn't even really know what home meant. That first night, he didn't know if he could trust them, nor what would happen over the next twenty-four hours. He was a little less worried about that. Or maybe distracted. He had other fears now. He was more worried about what and who might be around the house, and the fact his past was never far away. Regardless of a change in 'home'.
You can't change who you are, he decided. And you can't change what happened to you. Or what will happen.
Someone told him about fate once. Maybe it would all happen like it was meant to regardless of what he tried to avoid.
Maybe he was just unlucky. Anthony had called him unlucky once.
That first night in the house, with all the anxiety, he also tried to leave. Thinking back, he wasn't really sure where he would have gone. Even now, he still didn't know the area well, despite a few explorations under his belt. And at night... That was different. Things hid in the dark.
He thought about his first meeting with Bobby.
"I stayed a week," Jack spoke up.
Bobby glanced over at him, letting his eyes drift from the road for a moment. It wasn't often the kid spoke. And it had been so quiet the last ten minutes that it caught him off guard. "Huh?"
"I stayed a week," Jack repeated.
"What do you mean?" Bobby returned his eyes to the road and eyed the stop sign he was approaching. "You mean with us? Yeah, you did. It's been more than a week, kid." Maybe the kid had erased some of the time from his mind. He wouldn't blame him. In fact, he wished they could go back to that first week so he could change some things.
"So I finished our deal."
"Our deal," Jack persisted.
Bobby frowned, trying to understand the kid's words. The one time he starts being talkative and he talks in code, he thought to himself in amusement.
Then it hit him. "Our deal," he repeated. "We made a deal that you would give it a week. That you would give us a chance."
Bobby paused. "And?"
"I dunno..." Jack shrugged. "Just that the week is over now."
"So..." Bobby began slowly. "You thinking of trying to go somewhere else now? Is that what you're saying?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"I don't really get a choice, do I?"
"We can make a new deal."
Bobby noticed how quickly Jack responded and wondered what was going through his mind. "If you're talking about running again... You know I'm faster than you, and you would have no idea where you're going."
Jack stayed quiet for a minute.
"Like the brilliant idea you had on your first day in the middle of the night?" Bobby persisted. "Trust me, Jackie. You wouldn't make it far,"
"Because of him?"
"Who?" Bobby glanced at Jack again and then realized what he meant. Kevin. Because of Kevin. He thought he meant he wouldn't make it far because of him. "No. Not because of him, Jack. Listen. I told you, he's still-"
"I don't believe you."
"I. Don't. Believe. You." Jack's tone grew more adamant.
"I don't lie," Bobby said stiffly. "Fuck, Jack. I might be an asshole, but I ain't a liar." His irritation returned. That fucking dipshit Angel.
Jack didn't respond, his head now turned away to look out the passenger side window.
"Listen, and listen good," Bobby continued. "We already had this conversation. I don't know why Angel was fucking you. I really don't. For whatever reason, he was. But that's one thing I feel strongly about - lying. No. Not to family. I don't tolerate it."
"I'm not your family," Jack muttered.
"Well, whether you like it or not, you are now. Get used to it."
"I've heard that before."
"Maybe you have. But with family, you gotta be truthful. If someone lies to me, I will find out."
Jack paused. "But there are good lies."
"Yes, there are," Jack said. "Anthony says there are."
"Well, then, I don't think I like this Anthony guy."
Bobby took a deep breath. As the conversation progressed, and they neared his 'one last stop', Bobby started to feel a little tentative about his decision to make the stop at all.
Jack remained quiet now and swallowed back the uncertainty he felt.
'You wouldn't make it far.'
He didn't know who to believe. All he knew was that he could only trust himself. Someone else had told him that once before. They said that was the only true piece of advice they could ever give. He'd heard a lot of people say 'trust me' before, only to have them turn around and hurt him like everyone else.
He didn't know why he even brought back up the deal they made his first night. It had been over a week anyway. A month now. But he did think about going somewhere else. After all, Kevin knew where he was. And if Angel was right, then it would never be safe anyway. And the only way to make somewhere else safe was to make sure no one else knew where he went.
It made him angry when Bobby said he wouldn't make it far. What did he know? Besides, little did they know he had the means to make it. The Mercers were sloppy with their spare change. All you had to do was keep an eye out, and quarters and dollars would eventually sit neglected on the counter and under laundry. Each time he noticed a small amount, he found a way to make it into his stash under his mattress.
Jack thought back to the room at the school with all the instruments. He wondered if he would ever be able to go in that room again.
If only there was a place like that as 'home' that no one else knew about.
At that moment, Jack looked up, and suddenly realized where they were.
This street was really familiar.
They pulled up to the intersection as the light turned red and Bobby stopped.
Jack turned his head to view the street to the right and that's where he saw the sign. He gasped.
He felt frozen. Why were they here?
Bobby was looking at him now. He immediately noticed the look on Jack's face and then followed his gaze to see where he was looking. He swallowed and suddenly realized his gut trepidation had been right. This wasn't the right time to do this.
"Look, Jack," he began. "We only need to stop here for a minute. I didn't wanna tell you because... You know. But I only need to-"
"Why are we here?" Jack demanded. His voice wavered. "Why? Is he here?"
"No, he's not," Bobby responded, slightly frustrated. He looked ahead once more briefly to check on the light. "Look, I'm sorry to take you back here, but I just need to see if Jenna is here and find out what she-" He cut himself off as he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye.
Before he could react, Jack had opened the car door and was quickly slipping out of the vehicle.
Bobby reached over to grab him with haste, but it was too late. The kid was gone, leaving the door hanging open. "Jack!" Bobby barked.
He slammed his hand down on the steering wheel in anger. "Fuck," he snapped at himself. "Fuck!" He quickly put the car in park and unbuckled his seatbelt to lean across the passenger side, stretching until he could reach the door and pull it shut.
A car honked behind him. He realized the light was green.
He glanced in the rearview mirror. "Fuck you!" he retorted to the honking as he put the car back in drive. He started to edge forward as he looked in his mirrors, trying to locate Jack. In the distance, up ahead, he could see him running down the sidewalk.
A huge Thank You to all the commenters so far. I really appreciate the feedback and the support. I'm sorry for the infrequent updates. I love writing but life often gets in the way nowadays.