Chapter Seven ~Maddie~

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My legs are sore, my butt is numb, and my shoulders are stiff. My arms are tired and are wrapped around Aiden, clinging on for dear life. The rest of my body has given up the fight and is relaxed, pressed against Aiden's back, my head resting on his shoulder.

The rumbling of the quads and the gusty wind are all I hear as we ride through city after city. We left Albuquerque an hour or two ago, it's hard to know for sure.

Last night, I tossed and turned all night, afraid I'd wake up to an empty house alone and forgotten. I got up bright and early this morning, making sure they didn't leave me behind. Aiden was already awake, strapping our packed bags onto the back of one of the quads.

"Morning," he said, voice gravelly.

"Morning."

"Best to get an early start." He stood, stretching his arms above him, yawning.

I nodded in agreement, watching as his stomach began to peek out from the bottom of his shirt. "Where's Alex?" I asked, pulling my attention back to his face.

He gave me a knowing smirk, "Still sleeping. I was just gonna come in and wake you guys."

"Oh, okay. I can go inside and get something together for us to eat before we go." My voice was a little shaky, and I hoped he didn't notice.

"Perfect. I'll go wake her now."

Aiden had already packed a bag of food and water to take with us, so we had to eat from what was left, more of the prickly pear we'd picked the day before and a can of peas. Not quite appetizing, but it did the job.

Aiden had insisted that I ride with him, saying something about Alex being able to handle the steady load of our bags better than another person riding on back. I didn't argue, they were taking me with them and that's all I really cared about. Had I taken into account how up close and personal I'd be with Aiden and for how long I'd be clutched onto the back of him, I might have protested.

As awkward as I might have felt at first, and as uncomfortable as my aching body feels now, I can't deny how cool the ride has been. I haven't spent much time in a vehicle other than the hours I spent on the train the night I left, but even then it was dark out and I could hardly see anything but some city lights every so often.

My dad is a city patroller, which means he had his own vehicle for work, but I wasn't allowed to ride in it with him. My mom works at the elementary school close to home and my schools have always been walking distance from our house too, so we didn't have the need for a personal car. No one is allowed outside the city unless it's by a patrolled work bus with a direct route to its destination or if you work for the government of course, so anyone having a car is pretty rare in itself. Being on the quad has been a new experience, watching the scenery rush by us, my hair whipping around in the wind, it's exciting and fun.

Travis once promised me the first ride in his dad's car as soon as he got it running. I loved watching him work on the Chevelle. He was always so focused on the task at hand that it gave me the perfect opportunity to study him. It never got old. The way he moved, how strong he was, his determined expression, and always with the biting of that lip. He'd look up at me every once and a while and smile or wink at me. I lived for those moments.

Mostly, we'd work in a comfortable silence, him on the car, and me rushing through my homework so I could sit and stare at him some more.

I started helping him work on the Chevelle about a year before I left. One day he'd just looked up at me and said, "Get your ass over here Mad-dog, and bring that wrench with you," pointing at his pile of tools. "I'm gonna teach you a thing or two about cars."

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