When She Returned by Lucinda Berry Read Online (FREE)
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Shiloh’s screams pierced the air. I hoisted my nightgown and sprinted through the darkness. She writhed against me, getting instantly worked up and letting out another wail. Fear thrummed through me. I slapped my hand over her mouth. Her tiny body jerked with silent sobs. I dropped to the ground and shoved my thumb in her mouth, hoping it’d pacify her. She quieted immediately.
My heart pounded in my chest, lungs burning. I furtively scanned the forest. It felt like I’d been running in circles for hours. There was no way to tell where I was, which way I was going, if I’d been there before, but it didn’t matter. I just had to keep moving.
I glanced down at Shiloh. Her eyes were wide open, staring back at me while she sucked on my thumb. She always woke starved. I kissed the top of her forehead, reminding myself that she was my reason. I would do anything for her.
“Just hold on, baby girl; hold on,” I whispered.
The forest wasn’t quiet, and every sound made me jump. I was sure any minute one of them would reach out and grab me. Or worse, snatch Shiloh. They’d take her to him. What if they left me here?
I stood, cradling her tightly against me. We had to keep moving. I tucked her head underneath my wrap and took off again. Weeds and branches tore into my legs like barbed wire. No matter. I pushed forward. Rocks cut into my bare feet. I just wanted to rest, but I couldn’t stop. It was only a matter of time before she fussed again, and this time my thumb wouldn’t suffice. Her cries would lead them right to us. That couldn’t happen. I wouldn’t let it. I ran on, fighting through the exhaustion that came in waves throughout the night, making my head throb. Just when I thought I couldn’t take another step, the trees thinned, and a wider space opened in front of us. My footsteps quickened, and adrenaline surged again, giving me the final burst of energy I needed to push through the clearing and make it to the road.
And then I saw it—the neon lights stretching into the sky.
I sprinted across the road to the gas station. Shiloh jerked awake and began crying, but it didn’t matter anymore.
“You can scream now. Scream all you want,” I cried.
Two gas pumps stood empty, but the lights inside the store were on. I rushed to the door, springing back when it didn’t open. I pushed again.
It wouldn’t budge. I smacked the glass.
Shiloh’s cries moved into terrified screams. I beat on the door, yelling wildly. All this way. I’d come all this way. Tears coursed down my cheeks. Snot dripped into my mouth. I crumpled into a pile in front of the store.
“Hey.” A male voice startled me, making me jump. I gripped Shiloh closer to my chest and scuttled back against the wall. The man peered down at me through thick glasses. He reeked of smoke. His name tag said Matt underneath the Amoco logo.