arrell ran not into the woods where he’d heard them go but the other way, down the road, past their car, past the place where he’d turned back toward Juliette earlier in the night. He felt horrible not going after her again now but he also knew it would be crazy, to plunge into the forest where he knew they were. He had to save himself now; that was his best chance of saving her.
Why had she done that? It was so crazy, the way she’d jumped right out there in the brightly lit room. And then, when she was freaking lucky enough to make it out of the house alive, it was even more insane for her to bang on the window, to throw freaking rocks at the white Nazi freaks! What was wrong with her? That girl was out of her mind.
She was just crazy enough that she would drive them crazy, running around in the woods after her. Had she taken a gun that maybe was lying there, before she ran out into the night? Or maybe a knife? Might that have been why she threw the rocks, because she knew she could turn the tables on them?
He thought he heard a shot in the distance. Or maybe that was just his feet pounding on the road. Or his heart banging against his ribs.
The driveway was so long, the trees on either side of it so overgrown, it almost felt as if he were lost in the woods again. Was that his own feet he was hearing, or theirs? Oh shit, oh shit, he was so fucking scared.
And scared for her, too. He hated to think of her out there, with them after her, even as crazy as she was. But he hated to think about her, period, because every time he did, he felt even worse for not doing anything to help her.
At last, there was the road up ahead. He sprinted the final yards. It was beginning to get light, the trees finally gray and distinct from one another instead of one overwhelming black mass.
He could hear a car. Running to the shoulder of the road, he waved his arms frantically over his head. But the car just sped past, a lone white arm extended from the passenger window as if in greeting, or dismissal.
“Nigger,” he thought he heard as if from the car’s exhaust.
He took off at a trot downhill, in the direction he thought was town. Without thinking about it, he’d started crying. He was so tired, he was so frightened, he was so ashamed of himself and so confused. There was nothing to do but keep running, and keep crying.
After what seemed like a long time, he thought he heard a car behind him. He turned around, slowed down, put out his thumb and, with the other hand, tried to wipe his face. The car — a pickup, actually, red — veered toward the shoulder and seemed to slow down. Full of relief, he broke into a grin. But then the car swerved back onto the highway again and squealed away.
People would kill you out here, especially if you were black. God, he was such an idiot to try and get picked up. And what if it were the two Nazis from the cabin, come to find him? No matter what, he’d be better off walking. They’d walked up here last night, through the woods at that. It couldn’t be that far to walk back.
The next time he heard the distant sound of a car, he scrambled for the weeds by the side of the road and crouched low, hardly daring to peek above them. A dark sedan whooshed by from the direction of town and it wasn’t until the car was already passed that he realized with a start that it was his mother’s car.
“Mom!” he screamed, leaping from the weeds, windmilling his arms. “Mooooom!”
Too late. She was gone. Jesus. His mother. His poor mother. He could be riding in her car at this very minute, his feet propped on the dashboard just like always, trying to turn up his music only to have her turn it right back down. What he wouldn’t give to be there right now.
But then, he thought as he started trudging back toward town, he might end up having to go back to his brother Dwayne’s again. Or maybe the police would take him. His mom might make him go away some place. Some place far away.
Oh, God, he was in so much trouble, he couldn’t even remember for what. Would he be arrested? Was he a criminal? Was he a victim? Was Juliette all right? Would they think he’d done something wrong there too?
The sun was up now, the day started. Behind him, he heard the approach of another motor and tried to think what to do.