C19 CHAPTER NINETEEN
Chloe woke up promptly at 6 a.m. when her alarm went off. Usually, she would have snoozed the alarm three or four times before she finally woke up. This morning, however, she was in very great spirits. She made quick work of transferring her remaining belongings into her car before she even brushed her teeth, humming all the while. The next two days would be very hectic for her as she would spend a great part of them driving from here to San Diego, but she relished the feeling that her imminent freedom gave her. Paranoia made her glance out the window, looking for any signs of Lucas. He did not seem to be anywhere around and she heaved a huge sigh of relief. It would be just her luck for him to decide to start stalking her in the mornings too and then see that she had packed all her stuff. She planned to leave as early as possible as the last thing she needed was for Lucas to drive up while she was still making preparations to leave.
Chloe was thankful that she was not close to anyone in this apartment. This was quite easy because, everyone pretty much kept to themselves and aside from that, she hardly ever came out of her apartment, except it was to go to work or some other place. Also, as soon as she came back, she stayed inside her apartment and only rarely went out for leisure. The only person whom she talked to a little was a little boy of about ten years old who lived in the next apartment and whom she regularly saw around. The first time that she had seen him, he was being bullied and beaten up by three boys who were older than him. She had told them off and ever since then, he always greeted her each time he saw her, which wasn't often as she hardly ever went out.
Sometimes, Chloe saw the boy, whose name was Aiden, waiting outside the apartment for his mother, whom she had only seen thrice or four times to come back with the key. At such times, she would invite him to stay in her apartment, but he usually declined with the excuse that his mother would be angry. Chloe recognized the signs of abuse in the child, as she was very familiar with them herself, but the one time she had asked him about it, he had been terrified and had begged her with horror in his eyes not to say anything to his mother. Chloe had called social services anonymously a couple of times, but nothing had been done about it. On those days when he waited for his mother to come back from work and open the apartment, the boy, Aiden would sit on the floor in front of the door and doze, usually because he had not had anything apart from breakfast and because he was also tired.
Therefore, Chloe began bringing food home from the restaurant for him each afternoon when she worked afternoon shifts. He would eat the food ravenously while watching out with one eye for his mother, who would no doubt get angry if she knew he was eating from strangers. Once, his mother had come back unexpectedly just as he had begun eating the food that Chloe had brought for him. Aiden had taken one look at his mother and had swallowed in fear, almost choking as he did so. He quickly dropped the food as though it was a snake that he was just noticing was in his laps. His mother did not even care that he had choked and instead fixed a baleful look at Chloe, who returned her look measuredly.
"Did I tell you that I cannot provide for my son?" She asked, glaring at Chloe in anger.
"No, you didn't. I'm sorry that I did that without your permission. I just thought he looked hungry."
"Don't you ever do that again. You could be poisoning him for all I know. Besides, we're not a charity case." The woman said and glanced at her son who was looking at his worn shoes in fear. She had opened the door and motioned for him to go inside before her. Then she walked in after him without a backward glance, slamming the door in Chloe's face as she did so.
The next day, Chloe had seen Aiden, and one of his eyes was swollen shut. He had greeted her as cheerfully as usual but looked so pitiful that tears had gathered in her eyes. That was when she called social services for the third time. As usual, they did not do anything, but Chloe decided that she was not going to cause the little boy problems anymore. Instead of bringing him food, she began giving him some money to get something to eat at school each time she saw him in the morning before he left for school, not that she had much. He was a cool and handsome kid, and he reminded her of herself when she was that age.
By seven, Chloe had finished taking care of everything and quickly went by the restaurant where she used to work to get some breakfast. It was not very far from her house and she was grateful for this fact. The last thing she wanted to do was to drive around with her belongings in the car and let anyone who saw her know that she was moving. Erin was at the restaurant and Chloe bade her goodbye, finally telling her that she was leaving Tulsa for good. She did not say where she was going, though.
"I'll miss you," Erin said, looking somewhat sad. Chloe realized that she was something of a loner too. In the time that they had known each other, she had never met any of Erin's friends. She was not even sure if she had a boyfriend.
"Where did you say you were moving to again? Perhaps I can come to visit you sometime." Erin said.
"Oh, it's very far. Nowhere around here." Chloe replied evasively. She just wanted a fresh start with no ties to this former life.
"I'll make sure to have friends and live a different life this time around," she promised herself as she rushed back with her breakfast to her soon-to-be former apartment.
The apartment was quiet when she got back and she scanned the streets, paranoid that Lucas was somewhere around. She did not see his car and crossed to her apartment in relief, wondering if it was not better to leave and then eat her food on the road. She entered her apartment and looked around to see if she had missed anything and then decided to eat her food before leaving. She had not eaten anything last night because of how anxious and excited she was about this new life that she was starting. Her excitement had all but filled her, but now, she was starting to feel hunger pangs. So she sat down on the floor with her back to the wall and began to devour her food as fast as she could. She was almost done eating when there was a knock at the door.
Chloe froze in shock with the spoon halfway to her mouth as she stared at the door in fear. Would all her efforts would be in vain? Not that she would let anything stop her from leaving, not even Lucas. She would club him over the head to leave if she had to do so. But she had every reason to be cautious because since she had started living here, she had not had any visitors, except for Lucas, and the very occasional delivery guy. Could it be Lucas at the door? That was the most likely case, especially since he had recently begun stalking her. She did not order anything, so it could not be a delivery guy at the door. She wondered if she should answer the door or pretend not to be home. Her heart began slamming painfully against her ribcage as she sat there frozen and wondering what on earth to do.