Christmas Wish

By: Chiah Wilder

Chapter One

Headlights illuminated the fog like two glowing eyes.

Savannah Carlton nervously looked in her driver’s side mirror and noticed another car fast approaching from behind. She took a deep breath, hunched up her shoulders, and leaned into the steering wheel. She quickly glanced down at the speedometer, which read forty-five miles an hour, then back to the side mirror as the car loomed closer.

Gripping the steering wheel tighter, Savannah’s eyes darted to her son’s reflection in the rear-view mirror, who was safely secured in his booster seat, and back again to the side mirrors. The other vehicle was rapidly approaching her SUV.

Savannah pressed down on the gas pedal, willing the SUV to move faster; unfortunately, the trailer in tow kept her car from gaining very much speed. Seconds later, the other car’s high beams practically blinded her as they glared in all the mirrors. While Savannah readjusted them, sweat beaded along her hairline as a sense of uneasiness wove through her.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?” Timmy asked.

“Nothing. It’s just a little icy,” she answered, her eyes still glued to the mirror.

The car fell back and Savannah glanced at Timmy and flashed him a quick smile. “We should be in Pinewood Springs soon, sweetie.” Shifting her gaze back to the road, she estimated they were about forty miles away from the town. I wish this jerk would just pass me. When we get to Pinewood Springs, I’ll splurge and have us stay in a hotel. Ever since Savannah took her son and ran away from her husband two weeks before, they’d been staying at campgrounds or wherever she could find a spot for the night. Her plan was to get as far away as possible from Bret and his controlling mother, so she kept driving west.

Once again, the headlights of the car grew brighter. Savannah let up on the gas pedal and slowed down, hoping the driver would pass her, but he didn’t—instead, the vehicle slightly fell back. What the hell? A chill flowed through her in spite of the heat blasting from the vents. I wonder if that car is following us. She pressed her lips together in an attempt to calm down her chattering teeth. The image of a car parked in the far corner of the diner’s parking lot flashed in her mind. A couple of hours before, she and Timmy had stopped at Chubby’s Diner off the old highway to stretch their legs and get a bite to eat. As they ate, she’d noticed a car pulling into the parking lot without its headlights turned on. It looked like an Oldsmobile from the 1970s—big, vinyl top, and painted baby blue. The odd thing was that no one had gotten out of the car. It pulled into a space in the darkest corner of the lot and just stayed there. Even though it sounded silly, Savannah could feel the driver staring at them. It had unnerved her, and as hard as she tried to ignore the car, her eyes kept gravitating back to its direction.

When they’d finished their meal and walked back to their trailered SUV, she forced herself not to look at the parked vehicle. About fifteen minutes after she’d driven out of the parking lot, she noticed a car behind her. The vehicle had kept the same gap between their cars for more than an hour, but now things had changed. Is it the same car from the diner? Savannah couldn’t be sure. The hazy darkness shrouded the car in anonymity, and she couldn’t make out the make or model of the vehicle, so she wasn’t sure if it was the creepy Oldsmobile from the diner.

Her paranoia kept whispering that the driver was a hired man with orders to drag her and Timmy back to Boston where Bret and Corinne would determine the appropriate punishment for Savannah’s embarrassing behavior. That’s just crazy. How would anyone track me? I haven’t left any type of paper trail. Cleaning out her safety deposit box and selling a good portion of her jewelry had helped Savannah live a cash only life on the run. Maybe the car following us has nothing to do with Bret. Maybe it’s a serial killer. Oh God … no. Okay, Savannah, calm the hell down. Think of Timmy. Don’t freak out.

“Are we almost there, Mommy?”

“Just a little bit farther. Do you want a snack?”

“Uh-uh,” Timmy said as he stared out the window.

Savannah looked in the mirror again and the car was still there. As the darkness swallowed up the road, fear crawled through her. Suddenly she spotted a small road to the right, and from the map, she knew there weren’t any roads leading to other highways or back streets. It must lead to a house. Hope sprung up inside her. She accelerated a bit and the car behind followed suit.

“Hang on, Timmy.”

Without braking, Savannah turned sharply and the trailer swayed madly as Timmy cried out. Struggling to maintain control, her hands clutched the steering wheel, holding so tightly her knuckles were white. Snowdrifts, pine trees, and evergreens whipped past, and a flash of panic tore through her as the SUV veered to the right. Shit! Tapping slowly on the brakes, Savannah used every bit of muscle power she had to keep the car steady and on the road.

Suddenly the car stopped, and Savannah rested her forehead on her hands and gulped in air for several seconds. She slowly lifted her head and turned to look at Timmy. The six-year-old had a huge grin on his freckled face.

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