Vradin, Chapter Twenty-Seven

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From Federal Way, I took the back way down through Auburn and near the Supermall to hop on to Highway 167 South. I wanted time to think,

so I skipped from 167 to the 410, and quickly off the 410 on to Highway 162 toward Orville. I took that all the way through Orville to where it dead ended at Highway 165. 165 North connected back with the 410, which closes near Rainier depending on the weather, so I went south on 165 to the back gate of the Rainier National Park.

I ended up stopping in Carbonando for gas. I texted Tank, like I promised, and even told him where I was, attaching a photo of the gas station with Mount Rainier in the back ground, the clouds in the distance making a dramatic picture.

By that time, I had had enough time to realize that I was having some small panic attacks about how much more, I guess firmly set is one way to put it, that Tank’s personality was compared to mine. I wasn’t sure how much of an age difference there was between us, but Tank had successfully run two business as an adult, and I hadn’t even managed to finish college. He looked no older than thirty, but even so, that meant close to ten years of life experience — half again the entire time I had lived — that he had and I didn’t. The panic wasn’t so much about how I could hold his attention long term so much as how I could become my own person when it would be so much easier to grow into his shadow.

I really did not like that thought. It almost made me wish that I could trust Isabel enough to talk with her about how she handled that difference of experience, considering she hadn’t been that much older than I was now when she and Dad got married. In point of fact, the only person I thought might have worth while advice that I could trust on the whole thing would be Lydia, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to bring it up to her. As sweet as she was to us, she was still a boss lady, and not our matriarch. My grandmother, well, I had no clue how she would swing with it. There were times she encouraged my female cousins and me to march to our own beat, and times when she admonished us to be “good young ladies”.

I had just hung up the gas gun nozzle, and was getting the cap put on my gas tank when someone tall and thin stepped up beside me and a heavy hand clapped down on my shoulder while something sharp poked my side. “Do not try any heroics,” a tenor voice said beside me.

It was a little late for that. When the hand touched my shoulder I tried to drop and draw in a deep breath the better to scream. The hand held me up, digging painfully into the tendons where my shoulder and neck joined. The pain of it constricted my throat and killed the breath in my throat.

The sharp poke in my side went even pokier, and the grip on my neck shifted the better to control my throat. My hands went up, and then everything was very heavy, very swirly, and … nothing.