“Mommy, I’m hungry,” Maddison spoke from behind me. The
sound of her sweet little voice only made my heart ache more intensely.
“I know, baby. Mommy will find you something real soon. I
promise.” I slowed the car to a stop and reached for the bag in the passenger
seat beside me. Digging around, I pulled out the package of crackers I had
taken from our last stop.
Turning around, looking back at my sweet little girl, I
forced a smile. The last thing I wanted her to see was how unsettled I felt
inside. She looked so tired, and seeing that in her eyes made me feel like a
Tearing the package open, I handed her the two crackers.
“Here, sweet pea, eat these for now. I know it’s not much, but I’ll get ya
something else real soon, okay?”
Maddison nodded her head and took the crackers from me. “Do
you still have juice left in your cup?” I asked, and she nodded her sleepy little
head once again. “Good, we’ll be stopping real soon.”
Turning back to face forward, I took in a deep breath and
began looking around. I had passed a sign that read “Welcome to Brooklet” about
a mile back. As I looked around, I found myself wondering if there was even a
hotel here in this small town. It was definitely a big change from San
With only a little over two hundred dollars left to my name,
I knew I had to make it last. The thought of not being able to take care of
Maddison made me sick to my stomach.
I had no choice; I couldn’t go back. I had to leave, had to
hide out. He had crossed a line that could never be fixed. A life like we were
living had to stop. I couldn’t go on in fear any longer; we deserved so much
more than that.
I knew I was taking a chance by going back home to Palm
Beach, but I needed my family more than ever. I knew it would be the first
place he would look, but it was the only place I could go.
Keeping Maddi safe came first. It was my job, and for the
last six months, I had failed her and the memory of her daddy, Troy.
So the choice to leave in the middle of the night, when Seth
least expected it, was an easy one to make. A choice I would never regret, no
matter how much I had to sacrifice.
Maddi needed stability and security. When she had that, my
needs would come, but not until then. “I need to potty, Mommy,” Maddison
announced from the backseat.
The decision had just been made; it looked like we would
stop in Brooklet for now, at least for tonight.
Looking around for a place to stop, I pulled into the
parking lot of a small restaurant. It was just after seven at night, and the
lot appeared deserted. Two vehicles were parked up close to the entrance. The
rest of it was empty.
Holding Maddison’s hand securely in mine, we walked side by
side toward the entrance.
The smell of grease engulfed me when I opened the door, and
it smelled amazing. It had been hours since I had last eaten anything.
“Is it just the two of you?” an older woman with a genuine
smile asked. I nodded my head as she led us to a small booth in the back.
“Do you have a restroom my little girl could use?” I asked
as I looked around the small dining area.
“Just down that hall, to your left. Can I get anything
started for the two of you?” she questioned.
“Yeah, um, a grilled cheese and chocolate milk if ya got
it?” I replied as I led Maddi toward the bathroom.
“What are you having darlin’?” she hollered after me.
“Nothing thanks. I’m not hungry,” I said over my shoulder as
I nudged Maddi along. I forced a smile as I hurried toward the bathroom.
“Mommy, your tummy is growling.” Maddi looked up at me as I
continued to guide her toward the back.
“No, baby. Mommy ate this morning. I’m good,”
I assured her.
I had decided when we left San Diego that I would only allow
myself one meal a day. Even though I would kill for a juicy burger and fries, I
had to use my head. The money had to last until I found a source of
When we made our way back to our table, I thought for a
moment we were at the wrong one.
There was a large salad at one side, and on the other a bowl
of applesauce. A large soda with a cup of chocolate milk sat in the center.
I stood looking around in confusion, just as the lady who
greeted us put a plate of fries on the table. “Ma’am, I didn’t order all this.
I can’t…” I began to say, as panic set in. She held up her hand to stop me.
“Don’t you worry yourself over it darlin’. It’s all been
taken care of.” She grinned and nudged her head toward the door.
I looked up just as a tall, broad man pushed open the door.
He tipped his head toward me and winked, a dimpled grin gracing his lips. I
stood staring at him until he disappeared through the exit.
“That sweet man just bought the two of you dinner.” She
placed her hand on my shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “There’s kind
people out there, sweetheart. Colt Thompson is a good man.”
Her final words left an emptiness in my chest. A good
man. I wasn’t sure they existed anymore.
Besides my father, I didn’t know many others. Troy,
Maddison’s father, was a good man—a man who gave his life for his country and
never got the chance to know he was gonna be a father.
My brother was also a good man, but other than those few, I
was starting to feel as though good men were only mythical.