I wasn’t taking any chances. He wasn’t going to find me. Hours ago I walked out of my house and down the tree-lined drive to the gates at the end of the lane. I had turned off the security cameras when I unlocked the gates before leaving the house, so I slipped through the wrought iron bars and hiked down the hill and around a curve until I came to another set of entrance gates. I waited a few minutes by the brick pillars, then I met the taxi I had called as if I’d just come out of that house. I instructed the driver to take me to Dulles Airport. Relieved that I didn’t have a lot of luggage for him to load, he didn’t ask any questions or attempt any small talk.
I flew from Dulles to Raleigh and took a bus into the center of the city. From there I hired a taxi and told the driver to drop me north of where I wanted to end up. After paying the driver and watching him pull away, I walked one block north, then turned and backtracked, walking three blocks south to the RV dealership where I was now. My husband was not going to find me.
It was called Atlantis, but I knew without a doubt that it wasn’t water-worthy. That didn’t matter, for $85,000 it was worthy in a different way; it was my way out. I signed the forms the salesman shoved across the desk. Among them was the government tax form required because I was paying for my new Class C RV, my mini-motorhome, with stacks of hundreds, paper banded, in groups of a thousand.
Recreational vehicles run the gamut from small camper-type pop-ups to conversion vans, known as Class ‘B’s, to Class ‘C’s—campers on a truck chassis, to the mega campers—the luxury Class A motorcoaches. I wasn’t ready for one for them yet.
I had used my new driver’s license to board the plane and now was using it to buy the self-contained motorized RV and insure it through the dealer. I hadn’t figured out how to get a new social security number, but I had been able to change my name on the old one and get a new card.
By paying cash I avoided filling out a credit application at the dealership, which would have allowed them to run a credit check on me. At this point I was a non-existent person credit-wise and I wanted to stay that way. If they ran a credit report using my real name, I knew that the notation of the dealership’s inquiry would be on all subsequent credit checks. Jared often ran our credit report from one of his stores and brought it home to show that we had the highest rating you could have along with an enviable Beacon score, the credit world’s yardstick for measuring payment histories and debt to income ratios. I knew that every time someone applied for credit, the inquiry became a permanent record so you couldn’t use credit and hide. I had accepted the fact that I could never buy on credit again; it would be like waving a red flag and yelling, “Here I am!”
On the forms I filled out, I transposed the order of two of my social security numbers. And I gave my address, the one on my new driver’s license, as Hickory Hill in McLean, Virginia—the Kennedys would be thrilled to know they now owned a new RV. Hickory Hill had been John and Jackie’s house before they’d sold it to his brother, Bobby and his wife, Ethel, some fifty-odd years ago. It was an odd piece of trivia and I was counting on no one picking up on it.
Since it would be disastrous if anything with my new name ended up in Jared’s mailbox, I had to forget my old address. I would purge it from my memory, I would force myself to forget that I had ever lived in the upscale community of Great Falls, Virginia.
I had worried about one thing, but it was highly unlikely that Jared would be able to track me by using the IRS 8300 form, required on all cash sales over $10,000. It would take months before he even knew of its existence, and with the erroneous information I had provided, it might never even end up on his desk. But if it did, I would be long gone, on a trail no one could follow.
As I passed the forms back across the desk, the salesman smiled and handed over two sets of keys. “It’s all yours now, gassed up and ready to go. We even filled your water and propane tanks. We’ve gone over pretty much everything. Is there anything else you’ll be needin’ to know Miz Roberts?”
“Just the way to 95 South, and how long it’ll take me to get to Miami.” No harm in leading them in the wrong direction.
“You’ve been a heck of a negotiator, but I think you might have left us enough profit to throw in an Atlas,” the sales manager said with a smile as he elbowed the salesman out of the way and produced a large floppy book with the words “Official NASCAR Atlas-2006 Edition” emblazoned at the top. He was grinning from ear to ear showing a mouthful of capped teeth.
As Carrie, not Debra as I had been just this morning, I wasn’t even bothering to keep the same initials, I gave him a small smile. “Thank you.”
“No problem. Here, I’ll even highlight the way for you.” He tossed the book on the desk, flipped it open to the page that showed North Carolina, and grabbed a highlighter out of the pen and pencil holder on the desk. As he outlined the routes I needed to take, I noticed that his teeth clamped his tongue like a toddler trying to concentrate with all his heart to stay between the lines. I felt a little guilty, he was working so diligently and I couldn’t have cared less.
“You follow Route 440 until you get to Route 40 heading south, it leads ya right into Route 95, then all ya need to do is stay on that and keep headin’ south, it’s a straight shot all the way down.” He flipped the pages and continued drawing the yellow line through the state of South Carolina, then Georgia and finally through Florida, ending with a double thick line at Miami. “And there ya are!” he emphatically pointed with a thick finger.
“Thank you,” I said with a smile as I stood and took the book that he was handing me. “I appreciate your help and all the effort you took to familiarize me with my new RV. I think I can manage everything else on my own.”
I picked up the packet containing my documents, warranties and instruction manuals, and closed my fingers around the keys. I strolled out of the dealership into the sunny April day and headed over to my new home and my new life. Thank God they had pulled it out of its narrow slot and faced it toward the exit. It wasn’t as big as a Class A motorhome, the king of the road, but it had almost everything of its larger counterpart. I had never driven a camper of any size and could only hope that I’d never be in a position where I would have to back it up. I was giddy with excitement. I could feel my pulse pounding. Everything was going as planned. I gave a great sigh of relief. I had done it! I was free!
An hour later I was on Route 64 heading west and feeling a bit more comfortable centering my new motorhome in its lane on the highway. The jitters were working themselves out of my body and the anxiety I had felt all day was melting into euphoria.Soon I would be on Route 40 enjoying the scenery as I entered the mountains of North Carolina. I looked at the digital display on the dash and noted the time, 5:37 p.m. My thoughts flew to Jared who would be getting home soon. He would be furious when he discovered me missing. I let a tiny smile curve my lips. He would indeed be furious.
The man thought he owned me, body and soul. Well he had, for six long years, but no longer. I was my own woman now, and I vowed that never again would I be made to feel that my only purpose and reason for living was to satisfy a man’s lust. I had a brain and I intended to use it. Though Jared had told me differently while he taunted and sadistically demeaned me, I never lost sight of the smart young girl who had simply married the absolute worst possible man in the world.
It was over though. I was finally free. I had to force my mind to stay away from Virginia, Jared, and the six dark years during which he had controlled me utterly and completely.
A sign for Black Mountain flashed by and I knew I was getting close to Asheville. Try as I might, I could not get the image of Jared out of my head. I imagined he was about as angry as he would ever get right about now. I could see him slamming his fist as hard as he could against the book ends on the open-sided bookcase in our den, sending columns of books and delicate Lladro figurines tumbling to the highly-polished, hickory hardwood floor. The noise would be deafening and he would continue trashing the house until he exhausted his anger.